The New England Patriots crushed the Cleveland Browns 45-7 on Sunday to improve to 6-4 on the season. They are still firmly in the playoff hunt, and, with four straight wins, are looking to be a tough team to play every week.
Let’s get into the takeaways from the game on Sunday in Foxboro.
1. A dominant win on both sides: The Browns started the game with an 84-yard touchdown drive, where the Patriots applied almost no resistance. Between that series and the last two garbage time drives, however, the Browns had a total of only 31 yards of offense.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the Patriots scored on seven of their eight possessions (excluding the kneel-downs at the end), and had drives of 99 yards, 92 yards, and 95 yards. Third down was almost more staggering, with the Patriots going 7-for-9 on third down and the Browns going only 1-for-11.
It’s tough to be better on both sides of the ball than the Patriots were on Sunday. They completely dominated against a team that had a whole lot to play for, and had the same record as them entering Week 10.
2. Mac Jones continues to grow: Mac Jones had the first three-touchdown game of his young career. More importantly, though, he continued to throw some big passes. After giving up a long touchdown drive to start the game, the Patriots were facing a crucial 3rd-and-8 deep in their own end. Jones calmly hit Hunter Henry for a 12-yard completion and first down. Three plays later, New England faced a 3rd-and-6, and he hit Kendrick Bourne for a first down.
The rookie made some beautiful throws on Sunday, but the throws that stick out the most came on the 99-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter.
Firsts was a 26-yard throw to Jakobi Meyers on 3rd-and-9. Jones saw single coverage and dropped it into a bucket over the top of the defender. Then, there was the touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne two plays later. The aggressiveness and trust to make that throw from 23 yards out was great to see: Jones put the ball up high, because otherwise it might have gotten picked, but he had to trust Bourne to go up and get it, which he did.
Jones later also had an impressive throw to Hunter Henry over two defenders on a corner route. That might have been his best throw of the season so far.
The Patriots are not asking Joness to carry the load for them, but he is making all the throws that they are asking him to make, and he’s starting to make some great plays out there. He is only 10 games into his career, but he’s been great so far, and is only getting better.
3. Rhamondre Stevenson shines: With Damien Harris out, Rhamondre Stevenson had a great opportunity to show what he has. After not practicing all week while in concussion protocol, he took full advantage of that opportunity. He ran for 100 yards, added another 14 on four receptions, and scored two touchdowns.
What was most impressive was his contact balance. He simply refused to go down. Many times it looked like he had been stopped, and he would somehow pick up another five yards. Once Harris returns, the combination of him and Stevenson is going to be one of the most formidable backfields in the NFL.
4. Kendrick Bourne is so much fun: The Patriots have been criticized for their lack of playmakers in the passing game, but Kendrick Bourne was explosive on Sunday. Not only did he catch the ball and made the fantastic touchdown catch already mentioned — finishing with 98 receiving yards — but also running the ball and taking three reverses for 43 yards.
Beyond the football field, Bourne is one of the most well-liked players in the locker room. His smile is infectious, and you can tell how much the other guys love having him around. At the end of the game, he was hosting a dance party on the sideline, with a few guys joining in on the fun as well. Bourne is quickly becoming a fan favorite, and his play on the field is just one reason for it.
5. Jakobi Meyers finally finds the end zone: Speaking of reliable receivers, Jakobi Meyers has been a constant in the Patriots passing game since hiss arrival as an undrafted rookie in 2019. As everyone knows, he did not have a touchdown coming into the game. In fact, he had 134 receptions before he was finally able to get into the end zone in the fourth quarter.
It was great to see the entire team run into the end zone and celebrate with him. That’s another sign of how much this team really likes each other — every week, you can see it more and more. Teams like this can get hot and go on a run, which is what the Patriots have been doing the last month.
6. All Hunter Henry does is catch touchdowns: In the last seven games, Hunter Henry now has seven touchdown catches. He added two against Cleveland, and has become one of Mac Jones’ favorite targets. The two are neighbors, and it seems like they might be spending some extra time together at home, because they have developed a great chemistry.
Henry was the second tight end that the Patriots signed in free agency, but he has become arguably the most important player in the team’s passing game.
7. Some offensive line shuffling: Trent Brown was back this week, and there were a lot of questions about what the offensive line would look like with him in the fold again. What I did not see happening was arguably the best lineman they have had so far being the one who got benched.
Trent Brown was at right tackle for the majority of the game, and Isaiah Wynn stayed at left tackle. It payed off, as they were able to keep Mac Jones clean, except for two sacks (with one coming on what looked like a blown play). Wynn has gotten a lot of criticism, but he held his own against one of the best pass rushers in the league today in Myles Garrett. Who knows what the line will look like moving forward, but having six solid linemen is a great problem to have.
8. Matthew Judon is unfair: Judon has been one of the best players for the Patriots so far this season. He is consistently in on a ton of plays each week, and now has 9.5 sacks on the season to tie a career-high. It also seems that he is held on almost every play. Judon is great against both the run and the pass, and is simply the best player on the Patriots defense. He was paid big money by the Patriots in the offseason, and, so far, he’s been worth every penny.
9. Ja’Whaun Bentley is an underrated player: I’ve been banging the drum for Bentley since the Patriots drafted him out of Purdue in 2018. He missed almost his entire rookie season due to injury, and was bad last year trying to fill in for Dont’a Hightower. He’s been very good this year, however.
He finished the game against Cleveland with seven tackles and a quarterback hit. He also knifed through and took down D’Ernest Johnson for a 3-yard loss on third down to force a punt after the Patriots went three-and-out to start the second half. Bentley struggled a bit in space when he was asked to cover, but he’s been great against the run this year, and has really carved out a nice role for himself on this defense.
10. Don’t fall for the trap: The Patriots blew out the Browns on Sunday, and the Atlanta Falcons got blown out by the Dallas Cowboys. Logic would say that would mean the Patriots should blow out an inferior Falcons team on Thursday night. The Patriots, however, need to stay focused and not look past their upcoming opponent to the matchup against the top-seeded Tennessee Titans in two weeks.
In the NFL, any team can win any week, and the Patriots need to make sure that they don’t slip against the Falcons on Thursday.