In a complete turnaround from their disappointing week four performance against the Bills, the Patriots and the returning Tom Brady nearly eviscerates the Browns. The Patriots would garner 501 yards of offense against Cleveland’s defense, including 406 passing yards from one Mr. Brady. The Patriots seemingly beat the Browns in every facet of the game and made the NFL well aware that this is going to be an extremely tough team to beat with Brady back under center.
Going up against the only win-less team left in the NFL, Brady didn’t look at all rusty in his first game of the season. Coming back after being suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season due to punishment from “Deflategate”, Brady was not afraid to attack the Browns defense and he made quick work of them throughout the entire game. The team has 24 first downs on the day, including 15 from the passing game. In addition, Brady took advantage of his new tight end Martellus Bennett, throwing all three of his touchdowns to him. Bennett had left in the first quarter after an ankle injury but was taped up and quickly came back in, showing no ill effects of by how he played.
Speaking of new weapons, Brady found Chris Hogan two times on deep passes for massive gains of 43 and 63 yards. He finished the day with four receptions and 114 on the day. Rob Gronkowski also had his best game of the 2016 season for five receptions and 109 yards. He did not appear to be hobbled by the hamstring injury that had plagued him since the preseason. Julian Edelman led the team with 10 targets, finishing with five receptions for 35 yards and serving as a primary chain-mover for the Patriots. James White also had a solid game in the receiving game with four receptions and 63 yards as well, who the Patriots made sure to feature in screen plays early in the game. Overall, this was by far the best offensive showing for the Patriots in the passing game and it will likely be more of these types of performances moving forward rather than what the team did in week four.
The Patriots struggled a bit in the run game despite having a solid running attack coming into this game. As a team, New England had 98 yards rushing and a touchdown on 35 rushing attempts (2.8 yards per attempt). LeGarrette Blount also struggled with 37 yards on 18 carries (2.1 yards per attempt) but did have a rushing touchdown in the first quarter. The Patriots kept their passing attack up despite not trailing at all in the game, so the reliance on the run game that the team had in the first four games was not needed with Brady back. It is possible that Blount and the running attack takes a backseat to the passing game now that their passing offense personnel is back together.
Two keys for the Patriots defense coming into this game was containing the Browns run game and also shutting down emerging wide receiver Terrelle Pryor. After averaging 149 yards rushing per game to start the season, the Browns managed a measly 27 yards rushing on 22 attempts for a paltry 1.2 yards per carry. Isaiah Crowell, the NFL’s leader in rushing yards per carry coming into the game, managed 22 yards on 13 carries for 1.7 yard a carry. It doesn’t help that the Browns lost their 3rd string quarterback (operating as the starter today) in Cody Kessler to a chest/rib injury. The Browns were forced to rely on Charlie Whitehurst and Pryor at the quarterback position, making it easier for the Patriots to focus on stopping the dangerous run attack that the Browns have.
The Browns passing attack wasn’t that much better, including two touchdowns (one in garbage time in the fourth quarter) and 235 yards and an interception. The passing attack was doing well under Kessler actually (five of eight for 62 yards and a touchdown) before he went down with injury. After that, the Browns managed 187 yards on 15 of 28 passing and one touchdown and interception apiece. Not to mention that the Browns quarterbacks dealt with a good amount of pressure from the Patriots defense, including two sacks (both by Malcom Brown) and five quarterback hits. The Patriots as a defense also had six tackles for a loss (Brown and Alan Branch with two each, Elandon Roberts and Devin McCourty with one each) and deflected three passes (Patrick Chung, Jabaal Sheard and Jonathan Jones with one each).
New England was able to contain Pryor, a key weapon for the Browns, throughout the game. He managed to have only five receptions for 48 yards receiving on six targets. He was covered at times by both Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan and the Patriots secondary as a whole did a good job in keeping him from making any big plays, which he had managed to do multiple times in the past few weeks. The Patriots did a great job keeping the Browns wide receivers at bay, giving up 11 receptions for 117 yards and one touchdown after being burned by Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in week four. The Patriots did give up some plays to the Browns tight ends, Gary Barnidge and Connor Hamlett however. Barnidge finished with five receptions for 72 yards and Hamlett had a 17 yard touchdown reception as well.
Overall though, this Patriots team came out firing on all cylinders and quickly took control of this game. They started out hot early and didn’t look bad as they played solid defense and made few mistakes on offense with no fumbles or interceptions. It was a much better showing than week four and this Patriots team looks poised to continue being a top team in the NFL as the season progresses. They face the Bengals at home in week six and will look keep it just one loss for the team all season.