The New England Patriots knew it was there all along. The makings of a solid football team, predicated on offensive versatility and reliable defensive execution. For the past three weeks, New England has been cultivating that prowess, continuing to feed their growth into the team which they were destined to become.
On Sunday, the Pats’ potential went from ‘apparent’ to ‘overt.’ While there is still much football to be played, New England has made their case to be considered among the top teams in the conference.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones went 19 of 23 passing for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Fellow rookie, Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for 100 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns. Safety Kyle Dugger intercepted Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield, as New England put forth a dominant performance on both sides of the ball, beating the Browns 45-7 at Gillette
The Browns wasted no time in lighting the Gillette Stadium scoreboard on Sunday. Mayfield led Cleveland on an 11-play, 84-yard drive, highlighted by 58 yards rushing on four carries by D’Ernest Jackson. The Pats defense tightened in the red zone, with safety Adrian Phillips knocking a would-be touchdown away from Browns’ tight end David Njoku, and a near-interception by Devin McCourty of Mayfield’s pass intended for receiver Donovan Peoples Jones. Still, Cleveland continued their aggressive approach on fourth-down, with Mayfield finding Austin Hooper for an athletic touchdown grab in the back of the endzone.
Browns 7, Patriots 0
The Patriots would answer Cleveland’s 80-plus yard opening drive, with an impressive set of their own. Jones led the Patriots 83 yards on 15 plays, taking more than nine minutes off the clock. Jones went 6-of-6 for 55 yards on the drive, utilizing screens and some savvy pocket movement. The Pats also employed some solid rushes, with Rhamondre Stevenson logging 25 of the team’s 45 ground yards on their first drive of the game. Jones found Hunter Henry for his sixth touchdown in seven games. As the Pats evened the score in Foxboro.
Patriots 7, Browns 7
New England would take their first lead on the day, by playing prototypical Patriots’ football. On third-and-seven from their own 32-yard line, Mayfield was intercepted by safety Kyle Dugger, who made a solid read in coverage on a pass intended for Njoku. Dugger would return the pick for 37 yards to the Cleveland five-yard-line. On offense, the Pats would waste no time finding the endzone, with Stevenson scoring on the five-yard run.
Patriots 14, Browns 7
On what was one of his best drives of the 2021 season to date, Mac Jones made his presence felt as a quarterback capable of making strong, accurate throws down the field, as well as in tight coverage. The Pats traveled 99 yards on 11 plays, highlighted by a 26-yard pass from Jones to Jakobi Meyers on a deep-left route. JUst two plays later, the Pats rookie quarterback found Kendrick Bourne for a 23-yard touchdown strike in tight coverage. At that point, Jones had posted a stat line of 9-10 passing for 116 yards and two touchdowns, including going 5-5 for 77 yards on third down attempts.
Patriots 21, Browns 7
New England padded its lead as the first half drew to a close, with an 11-play, 47-yard drive. Jones nearly put the Pats back within the reach of another goal-line stand, with an 11-yard completion to Henry. However, left tackle Isaiah Wynn committed an Illegal Use of the Hands penalty, nullifying the play. The Pats settled for three, on a 38-yard field goal from Nick Folk.
At the Half: Patriots 24, Browns 7
Despite going three-and out to begin the third quarter, the Patriots still put together the first scoring drive of the second half. New England traveled 92 yards on eight plays. The gems of the drive would come on back-to-back gains by running back Brandon Bolden (for 22 yards and 17 yards respectively) , as well as 19-yard completion from Jones to Henry. Rhamondre Stevenson powered his way past the goal-line for a two-yard touchdown rush.
Patriots 31, Browns 7
After the Browns fell short of a fourth-down attempt, the Patriots took over on downs at the Cleveland 47-yard line. The Pats would go the distance on six plays in just under three minutes. On a drive in which Stevenson would eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career, Jones would cap the series with a three-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Henry.
Patriots 38, Browns 7
The Patriots increased their total of unanswered points since the first quarter with a six-play, 95-yard drive. Brian Hoyer, in relief of Mac Jones, went 3-of-3 with 85 yards passing. Hoyer would cap the drive by finding Jakobi Meyers for 11 yards, and his first NFL touchdown reception. Meyers had made 134 career receptions before finding the endzone on Sunday; the most by a receiver in the past 40 years of NFL game play. However, the celebration for Meyers would rightfully be short-lived, as Cleveland cornerback Troy Hill suffered a neck injury and was stretchered off the field.
Still, New England would place the crown upon a commanding performance, improving to 6-4 on the 2021 NFL Season.
FINAL: Patriots 45, Browns 7
Aside from the injury to Hill, Patriots cornerback exited the game in the first quarter, with an apparent injury to his left arm. Mills was initially listed as ‘questionable’ to return, however he would return to the lineup.
It will be a quick turn-around for New England in Week Eleven, as they will travel to Atlanta, Georgia for a matchup with the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday, November 18 at 8:20pm