The New England Patriots battled the weather and the Cleveland Browns and came out with the win to improve to 8-0 on the season. It wasn’t pretty but the Patriots were able to get it done.
Let’s break down the Week 8 keys to victory.
1) Stephon Gilmore needs to get the best of Odell Beckham Jr.
The weather may have played a factor in this matchup as it may have deterred the Browns from wanting to go deep with Odell Beckham Jr. against the zero blitz early in the game. Beckham had five catches for 52 yards and most of those came on wide receiver screens.
Stephon Gilmore was always right with Beckham every step of the way. Beckham is still a threat no matter what and the Patriots still doubled him on occasion. One of those occasions was on the Browns' lone touchdown of the game where Beckham was doubled, and it left Dont'a Hightower single covered on Demetrius Harris for a touchdown. The All-Pro receiver was held in check and Gilmore definitely had the upper hand.
2) Mohamad Sanu’s debut goes well
Mohamed Sanu’s debut was more like Josh Gordon’s Patriots debut than Antonio Brown’s. Sanu had two catches on five targets for 23 yards. One of those catches came on a big fourth down conversion in the first half. In the second half he was able to connect with Tom Brady for a big gain of 19 yards. With Gordon gone, that leaves Sanu as the No. 2 receiver for New England, so it is imperative that he picks up the offense as quickly as possible. He can fill in as a red zone threat that New England are sorely lacking this season.
3) Contain Nick Chubb
The superstar running back could not have had a worst start. His first two carries resulted in fumbles, the first of which led to a fumble recovered for a touchdown for the Patriots. On his very next carry he broke off a huge run and probably would have had a touchdown, but Jonathan Jones didn’t give up on the play and was able to punch the ball out from behind. Chubb was able to settle down and he finished with 131 yards on 20 carries. Chubb was able to do whatever he wanted and was the beneficiary of some really poor Patriots tackling.
Chubb may have put a chip in the New England's defensive armor and exposed their run defense. It remains to be seen if it is one-week glitch for New England or a real concern. The Patriots better figure it out as they have Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram coming up next week.
Even though the Patriots have yet to lose a game in the regular season, the schedule is about to get a whole lot tougher. It starts next week vs one of their all-time rivals in the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football.