Patriots Look Ready For Their Gauntlet

The Patriots downed the Browns on Sunday, winning 27-13. The Patriots controlled this game throughout the whole contest. With the early lead, they were able to play a “hard to beat” style that ultimately got them the win.

As discussed last week, it now begins the real test of the season. They’ve had the easiest schedule in the NFL so far, and have responded with a historically dominant start. They’ve won their first eight games, and now it’s time to lock in for the next eight. Is the defense as good as advertised? Is the offense more flawed than we think? We’re going to get some answers.

Rewatching the Film

The game started with the teams exchanging punts before the Patriots started driving. Tom Brady pushed the offense to the goal line before settling for a field goal. Following that, the Browns unraveled in historic fashion.

The Browns had turnovers on three straight plays, something only done six times before. Nick Chubb fumbled a carry that Dont’a Hightower scooped and ran all the way to the endzone. Chubb fumbled again after ripping off a 44-yard run. Jonathan Jones ran him down and punched the ball out to give it back to the Patriots. The last one came when Lawrence Guy pushed through the offensive line and snatched a shovel pass from Baker Mayfield.

The whole fiasco gave the Patriots a comfy 17-0 lead at the end of the first. The Browns eventually responded with a touchdown, just the third one given up by the Patriots defense this year. The offense responded with a 13-play drive, however, Mike Nugent‘s field goal attempt would be blocked.

The Browns started the second half with a field goal, cutting the deficit to 17-10. James White sparked the offense on their next drive, taking a screen pass for 59 yards. Brady ended the drive with a touchdown pass to Julian Edelman, his second of the day.

The rest of the game moved rather slowly. The Patriots didn’t try for any big plays, ultimately settling for field goals on two drives and converting one. The Browns struggled to find their footing, and the two-touchdown lead seemed insurmountable.

Games like these are the ones that get forgotten, but they shouldn’t. Yes, it was mostly boring and non-competitive. However, managing the team to stifling wins is what Bill Belichick has built his career on. He waits for his opponent to make mistakes and then exploit them while playing clean football himself. It’s better to view these types of wins as the Patriots being extremely difficult to beat, rather than simple, boring win.

The Patriots defense swarmed Baker  Mayfield all night.
(via Billie Weiss, Getty Images)

Game Ball

Speaking of Belichick, he gets the only game ball this week. He earned his 300th career win on Sunday, joining Don Shula and George Halas as the only other coaches to accomplish that feat. Belichick, however, stands out above them or any other coach in history.

There is no coach better at establishing his strict team culture and sticking to it. His team has absolutely no room for egos, and everyone down to kickers keeps team issues in house. There is no coach better at building a roster, consistently turning forgotten players into stars. And when those new stars are ready for contract negotiations, Belichick lets them walk in free agency because he knows he can replace them. There is no coach who, week in and week out, can scheme out the opposing team’s greatest strengths and exploit their biggest weaknesses. Where most other teams have tendencies and an identity, Belichick’s Patriots are a shapeshifting monster who forces you to play uncomfortably.

When the salary cap was introduced, it was thought no one would ever be able to reach Shula’s wins record of 347 because of the resulting league parity. However, the hoodie-wearing, sleeve-cutting mastermind figures to eclipse that within five years. There is absolutely no one who has done it like Bill.

Dont'a  Hightower scored the Patriots defense's fourth touchdown of the season.
(via Billie Weiss, Getty Images)

Updates from Outside the Uprights

Kicker Mike Nugent has been cut by the Patriots. He is replaced by Nick Folk, who last played in the AAF. I really like this signing. Nugent was not cutting it, and field goals are what’s going to decide games in January. The Patriots were settling for short punts or odd fourth-down attempts with Nugent, signaling they didn’t trust him in obvious kicking situations. With Folk, the hope is they can finally bring some stability to a very important position. Kickers are like closers in baseball, you don’t think of them until it’s time to win or lose the game.

The Josh Gordon era in New England is over after the receiver was released from injured reserve. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for him, but he’s already signed with the Seahawks. Any reason as to why this move happened would just be speculation at this point, so I wish him the best and thank him for his time with the Patriots.

Rookie receiver N’Keal Harry has a shot to play this week after coming off IR a couple weeks ago. He is eligible and there is an open roster spot for him, and the Patriots have until Saturday to activate him. This comes as Isaiah Wynn has also been taken off IR. Wynn needs to practice for another week before he’s eligible, but these youngsters figure to be some helpful reinforcements on offense.

Julian  Edelman caught two touchdowns for the Patriots on Sunday.
(via USA TODAY Sports)

Next Man Up: @ Baltimore Ravens

Get ready for one of the biggest AFC matchups of the regular season. In one corner, you have the Patriots, who are allowing an-all time low in points per game and whose defense has scored more touchdowns than they’ve allowed. In the other corner, you have Lamar Jackson, the ultimate offensive weapon, quarterbacking a fleet of dynamic skills players. Sparks are sure to fly in this battle of heavyweights.

The Patriots take their undefeated record into hostile Baltimore, and this crowd will surely be amped. The game has been flexed to Sunday night, so all eyes in America will be on these rivals.

I almost don’t even want to give an outlook on this game. It’s more about learning what the defense is really like against a more than competent offense. It might be better to just sit back and enjoy the show in this one, and we’ll see whose victorious when the dust settles on this.

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Top Photo: Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

 

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Author: Martin Keane

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