The Cleveland Browns are set to take on the New England Patriots in Foxboro. The bad news is the Patriots have one of the greatest defenses of all time so far this season and it's raining and windy. The good news is the Browns had two weeks to prepare for this game while the Patriots are beat up and played a game just six days ago.
The Browns find themselves 13-point underdogs and so many have written this game off as a loss that Freddie Kitchens and his staff have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If they can come up with an effective gameplan and protect the football, they can keep themselves in it until the fourth quarter and give themselves a chance to win.
Baker Mayfield's hip is recovered and the hope is that he and the rest of the offense have had time to address some of the issues that have been causing issues this season and improve their chemistry.
Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams will be active for this game, which is great, but the rain might neutralize some of their athletic advantages, particularly their speed and agility. Greg Robinson was benched this week and Justin McCray will be the team's left tackle this week.
The Patriots defense is historic, but their offense is putrid in terms of production. They don't make many plays, though they also don't make many mistakes, meaning they end drives in punts rather than costly turnovers.
Everything about this game suggests it should be low scoring unless one of the defenses takes over and makes a big play that could result in a quick score. That has been the Patriots calling card this year and that's the biggest challenge the Browns have faced this year.
Genard Avery is active for only the second time this season, active in place of Chris Smith. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks was confident Avery could impact the game, so now that he'll have the opportunity to do that, it will be interesting to see what he does and how much of an opportunity he gets.
Damarious Randall misses his third game this season with a hamstring. The Browns have players like Eric Murray and Justin Burris who can fill in for him. Kendall Lamm, the other possibility to play at left tackle, is out again with the knee injury that took him out against the Tennessee Titans.
The Patriots aren't necessarily missing any big names this week, but they are a team that has been physically beat up in recent games. Only having a game six days ago, Bill Belichick had the team practice this entire week without pads.
How they respond, particularly in this weather will be interesting. Kitchens might try to go right at them initially to see how they are able to handle that physical toll and if it can pay dividends later in the game.
The Browns are underdogs, but they have more than enough talent to beat a team like the Patriots. A win here would be big for the Browns, especially given their schedule the rest of the way. Losing isn't the end of the world, so long as they don't come out and get annihilated. They need something to build on after the bye and as they attack the rest of the schedule without much room for error.
The Browns won the coin toss and defer. The Patriots will be the first team to try to weather the storm, starting at around their own 30.
Patriots come out running early. The Browns defense is effectively a 5-front with Morgan Burnett the extra play up on the line of scrimmage.
Genard Avery on the field early as he gets a pressure on Tom Brady when he was forced to hold the ball and roll out on 3rd-and-9. Brady threw it away and the Patriots punt.
The Browns come out passing off of play action. Looking deep initially, Baker Mayfield stepped up and threw it to Antonio Callaway. Not a great throw and Callaway wasn't able to catch it cleanly on the sideline.
The Browns ultimately throw passes on all three of plays of the first series. Mayfield missed the first two before completing a quick screen to Odell Beckham on third down, but it only ended up gaining seven yards.
Jamie Gillan punts it away. Gillan could be a major factorin this game if he can get a hold of a punt or few in this one and flip the field.
Olivier Vernon makes a tremendous play on a 2nd-and-3 play where the right tackle attempts to cut him, he avoids the attempt and makes a tackle on a run to the right for a 3-yard loss.
On 3rd-and-6, Brady goes over the top on a deep fade down the left sideline to Phillip Dorsett that goes for 33 yards. Greedy Williams was on the coverage.
So far, the Browns are winning at the point of attack, controlling the line of scrimmage when the Patriots have the ball. The Browns have a pair of tackles for loss on running plays.
Patriots show like they are going for it on 4th-and-7, but the Browns are forced to call a timeout as they only had 10 players on defense.
Brady finds Julian Edelman on an inside route where he just settled in space, converting the first down. A hand off to Sony Michel follows up to give the Patriots 1st-and-goal from the 7
On 1st-and-goal, Brady gets some initial pressure but finds Mohamed Sanu on a short crossing route for 5 yards. The Patriots run the ball on 2nd with Michel and he goes nowhere.
On 3rd down, Brady makes a poor decision throwing toward the back of the end zone on the right, bu the only player with a chance was Denzel Ward, who couldn't catch it on a diving attempt. Myles Garrett had the backside pressure.
The Patriots go ahead and kick the field goal, taking a 3-0 lead. Mike Nugent kicked a line drive through the uprights.
The wind seems to be particularly strong in Foxboro as Myles Garrett's helmet has come off twice.
The Browns receive the ball in the end zone and return it out to the 20-yard line. Kneeling and getting it at the 25 would've been less work.
Mayfield comes out passing again as he goes to the left to Beckham on a quick screen with two blocks in front of him.
Nick Chubb gets his first handoff of the game and fumbles, which results in a 24-yard scoop and score from Dont'a Hightower. The ball was kicked out of Chubb's hands by his lineman. This is exactly how the Browns lose this game. Patriots convert the extra point. 10-0 Patriots.
With 5:45 left in the first quarter, Mike Nugent kicks off out of bounds, setting the Browns up in good field position to start this drive, needing to respond.
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Chubb breaks off a huge run for his second carry as Jonathan Jones chops down on the ball and knocks it out for his second fumble in as many carries. The ruling on the field. The run was for 70 yards only to give the ball back to the Patriots inside their own 5-yard line.
Wyatt Teller was in the game at right guard.
Myles Garrett blows up first down in the backfield, but Tom Brady completes a pair of easy passes to his left to get them out of their own end zone. Just about every pass is targeting Greedy Williams.
Brady completes another easy hitch to the right, this time to James White. The Browns are playing soft zone and Brady is just taking the profit without much resistance.
The Browns were able to force a punt as Olivier Vernon records his second pressure of the game. After a procedure penalty by the Patriots, they punt and the Browns take over with field good position again, this time at their own 48-yard line.
At least for the time being, Wyatt Teller seems to be the Browns right guard. This is a welcome change, especially in this game where running should be at a premium. Eric Kush just doesn't offer much there.
Apparently during the commercial break, the Browns were assessed a block in the back and will start at their own 21-yard line. Self inflicted wounds continue to haunt the Browns.
The Browns attempt to run some underneath counter toss and Mayfield gives it right Lawrence Guy blowing inside on the play, intercepting the pitch. Patriots take over at the Browns 11-yard line.
Brady finds Edelman for an easy touchdown pass and the game already feels over. 17-0 with 1:47 to go in the first quarter.
The Browns are finding success on the ground. Chubb runs for a pair of first downs.
The Browns are just rotating their right guards at this point Eric Kush is back into the game.
The Patriots lead 17-0 after the first quarter. The Browns are moving the ball entering the second.
Unfortunately, they start the second quarter 2nd-and-15, but they connect on an inside screen to Chubb that goes for 13 yards, setting up 3rd-and-2. And it was nullified by a Joel Bitonio holding penalty, so it's 2nd-and-25 instead. They run the ball for nothing, setting up 3rd-and-24.
Patriots jump offsides making it a more manageable 3rd-and-19. They then throw a quick hitch which goes for 3 with the Patriots backed up playing prevent. Browns forced to punt it away, despite being at midfield.
Browns are able to force a punt without giving up any ground. On the ensuing punt, Dontrell Hilliard muffs the punt and the Browns are fortunate to recover. Tavierre Thomas was able to cover the ball.
Browns come out and Chubb runs for a 6-yard gain. Mayfield follows up with an inside seam to Jarvis Landry; a nice throw and catch, moving the chains.
Mayfield finds Demetrius Harris on a corner route. Mayfield underthrew it so Harris could stop short and use his massive frame to box out the defensive back, then get in for the touchdown. Well designed play that was executed beautifully.
Browns convert the extra point, making it 17-7.
Patriots moving the ball while the the Browns are consistently getting pressure on Brady. He's managing to find holes in the defensive coverage as Browns defenders struggle with their footing. They were also helped by a questionable defensive holding call on Eric Murray.
Devaroe Lawrence gets a penalty for illegal use of the hands. It was likely supposed to be on Mack Wilson. And another free first down for the Patriots.
Edelman is killing the Browns zone defense. On 2nd-and-10, Wilson was victimized, which is a difficult matchup for anyone.
The Patriots go for it on 4th-and-4, going to an empty formation and hitting a quick hitch to Sanu. The spot was close, but the referees didn't hesitate to call the first down. After the Patriots try to rush and get the play off to avoid a potential challenge, the refs stop them, saying they weren't in position, so the play was dead. In that time delay, Freddie Kitchens does decide to challenge, which is unlikely to win.
Why there wasn't a measurement when Sanu was that close in the first place is bizarre. The official didn't hesitate and just went ahead and signaled first down.
The Browns ultimately lose the challenge. It may have enabled the defense to catch their breath and get situated, but it was a challenge that had no chance to win.
Brady is consistently dealing with pressure from the Browns defensive line, but he's making enough play to keep the drive going. Eric Murray is called for an illegal use of the hands penalty on a play going the exact opposite direction.
Despite a bunch of penalties and a lengthy drive that cost the Browns a challenge and timeout, the defense holds and the Patriots attempt another field goal, this time from 29 yards.
Denzel Ward comes off the edge and blocks it as Mike Nugent hesitated on the kick.
Browns have a big opportunity here to get some points late and get the ball back to start the second half.
After a run going to the two-minute warning and another coming out, Mayfield converts a short pass to Beckham to the right, stretching for the first down, the clock is becoming an issue. Hurrying up, Mayfield finds Jarvis Landry on the seam to the left, who gets another first down.
Mayfield drops back and is then sacked as the left rusher gets inside Justin McCray and gets the sack. The Browns are forced to their final timeout and the Browns now have 2nd-and-20 with 28 seconds left.
McCray then gets called for a false start on the ensuing play, making it 2nd-and-25. Mayfield completes a quick screen to the left to Hilliard with Callaway in front blocking that goes for 6 yards. They finish the half with a dump off to Hilliard.
Browns are down 17-7 at the half. They do get the ball back to start the third quarter.
The Browns have been able to move the ball on the Patriots effectively. A fumble on the long run killed one scoring opportunity. They handed the Patriots a touchdown with the kicked fumble.
Nick Chubb has 10 carries for 92 yards. Mayfield has completed 11 of his 14 passes for 80 yards.
The problem is that turnovers and penalties have done the damage to the Browns. As great as the Patriots defense is, the Browns are getting in their own way before the Patriots have a chance.
And the Browns have a chance, especially getting the ball to start the second half. They could make this a one-score game. They can win this game. But that doesn't change just how infuriating that first quarter was.
Browns come out in the third quarter firing. An awkward play action mesh didn't stop Mayfield from finding Jarvis Landry in a hole on what looked to be a scissors concept. Mayfield threw it over Landry's head, who went up and got the ball.
After a run and then a little dump off screen to Chubb to the left, the Browns have a first down in Patriots territory.
After that first play, Kitchens has been getting the ball to Chubb consistently, including a 3rd-and-1 play where Chubb stuck his foot in the ground and ran it to the right. Great vision.
On play action, Mayfield tries to go over the top from the right seam to the left corner targeting Demtrius Harris. The ball was short and bounced off of Patrick Chung's helmet. That snapped a streak of 12 straight completions for Mayfield.
2nd-and-12, Mayfield pumps a few times trying to find a hole through defenders to get a slant to Antonio Callaway. The completion sets up 3rd-and-4.
Dropping back on 3rd-and-4, Mayfield doesn't find anything, tries to step up in the pocket, but runs himself into a sack. All of that is irrelevant since there was an illegal shift, which the Patriots declined.
That sets up a 38-yard attempt from Austin Seibert. He connect and the Browns find themselves within one score, down 17-10.
Patrots come out passing and Olivier Vernon and Myles Garrett get pressure again, forcing an incomplete pass. Vernon and Garrett have been great n this game. Garrett comes off of the edge to pressure Brady again, almost getting him on basically a one step drop.
Patriots take advantage of the aggressive Browns front on the screen pass with man coverage. There was only one player accounting for Michel and unable to make the tackle, Michel was able to maneuver through the defense for 59 yards.
The one time Brady has eternity to throw a pass, he is able to find Edelman for a touchdown, covered by Morgan Burnett.
Browns get the ball back and come out with nothing on first and second down, leaving them with 3rd-and-10. Mayfield doesn't look the look at the line of scrimmage on 3rd and calls a timeout.
The Browns can't afford to give the ball right back to the Patriots with how much these drives and particularly so many push rushes are taking out of the Browns defensive line.
Mayfield throws a great ball to the back shoulder on a fade stop and Beckham simply dropped it. The Browns have to punt and are asking the defense to come up big here.
Defense looks fatigued as the Patriots take over as they are easily able to get a first down. Sheldon Richardson is able to start the new series with a pressure up the middle on Brady, forcing an incompletion.
Olivier Vernon drives the right tackle back into Brady's lap and secures the sack; his second of the season. Vernon has been tremendous this game, forcing a punt here.
Browns are trying to wear on this defense of the Patriots, giving Chubb the ball in various forms, making them tackle him. They've utilized that pitch behind a three receiver set a few times.
On 3rd-and-2, Mayfield finds Demetrius Harris in space, converting the first down. It figures that Harris, who is one of the worst pass catchers, is catching the ball well in this terrible weather. He then follows up with a false start penalty.
That ends the third quarter with the Browns trailing 24-10. And one can't help but wonder what this game would look like if they just didn't have as many crippling mistakes in the fist quarter.
The fourth quarter opens with Odell Beckham getting called for a false start, which is insane. He can see the ball.
After a 3-yard Chubb run, the Browns come with an inside screen to Dontrell Hilliard, who runs a whip route to set it up, setting up 3rd-and-3.
3rd-and-3, Mayfield finds Landry on a rub to the left sideline for a nice gain, but they call Antonio Callaway for offensive pass interference. The call was questionable, given the Patriots are the kings of those types looks, but Kitchens has now challenged it, which won't be overturned and they'll be out of challenges with basically an entire quarter to play.
On 3rd-and-13, Mayfield misread the defense and almost threw an interception to Stephon Gilmore. Fortunately, he dropped it, but the Browns are punting and down to one timeout and no challenges with 13:10 left in the fourth quarter down two scores.
Brady makes a perfect pass down the seam to Ben Watson with Mack Wilson draped on him in coverage. Wilson had great position, but the throw was right where it had to be and it goes for 26 yards.
On a pass intended for Edelman, Ward punches the ball out and Schobert picks it up, but it was ruled incomplete. Correctly.
Patriots have to settle for a 29-yard field goal attempt, which they convert, making it 27-10.
On a crossing route working laterally to the sideline, Jarvis Landry was ridden by the defender into the ground landing hard on his shoulder. He had to be attended to by trainers, but was able to get up and walk off the field.
Rashard Higgins was called for an offensive pass interference call on 3rd-and-1. Another lame call in what has been just a string of weak calls. It seems like as much as the Browns do commit penalties that deserve to be called, some of these calls appear a product of reputation.
Mayfield misses a corner route to Becham on 3rd-and-11.
After another presnap penalty, the Browns go for it on 4th-and-16 and are unable to convert. That was the last ditch effort by a desperate team that was unable to outscore their own mistakes.
The Browns were able to move the ball against this tremendous defense as well as any team in the league has this year. Handing the Patriots 17 points in the first quarter was an impossible hole to dig out of and there are a ton of questions that will be asked of Freddie Kitchens and deserves to be asked after this game.
Myles Garrett finally gets to Brady in what is effectively garbage time. That makes 10 sacks for Garrett on the year. Garrett had an outstanding day as did Vernon. Both notched a sack in the game, but were far better than that suggests.
Tracy Wolfson of CBS reported that the 4th-and-11 penalty was deliberate because Kitchens wanted to go for it, but didn't have time. Combine that with the fact Mayfield came up gimpy on the play call and Kitchens is going to get killed this week by fans and media.
After forcing a fourth field goal attempt, which Nugent missed, the Browns are able to move the ball effectively down the field as Mayfield sprays the ball all over the field to Landry and Beckham.
Weirdly, the Browns opt to kick a field goal on 4th-and-6. Seibert makes it which brings the score to 27-13. The Browns attempt a drop onside kick, which is an intriguing idea, but didn't work.
Browns fall to Patriots 27-13. Bill Belichick gets his 300th win and Kitchens has to go answer for this game and particularly the first quarter and his use of challenges as John Dorsey seemingly has the Sword of Damacles dangling over his head.