CLEVELAND – A different year. The same result.
Once again, the Browns faced the New England Patriots, just like they did last year. Just like they did last year, they put up arguably the worst overall performance of the season.
A year ago, it was a 38-point loss at Foxborough, Massachusetts. This time it was a 38-15 loss to New England in Cleveland that extended the Browns’ losing streak to three.
It was a day when the Browns’ offense was sporadic at best. The defense, while successful in not letting the Patriots run over it like the previous two opponents – the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Chargers – have gone back to their old ways of letting receivers s open wide and miss badly on tackle attempts.
By the way, this was all done while playing against rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe, who was making his second career start. It became Zappe’s first career 300-yard passing day.
Now the Browns will be 2-4 in consecutive AFC North games. It starts next Sunday in Baltimore, before hosting Cincinnati on October 31, their last game before the bye week.
Interception sets tone for Jacoby Brissett’s uneven game
Jacoby Brissett didn’t wait until the last three minutes of the game to throw an interception against his former team. It only took him two throws to do it.
Brissett was intercepted by Kyle Dugger at the New England 36 as the Browns quarterback tried to find tight end Pharoah Brown on a flag route. It was his fourth pick of the season, but the first he threw outside the final three minutes of the game.
It was the precursor to an incredibly uneven first half for Brissett, who completed 9 of 17 passes for 91 yards in the first 30 minutes.
There weren’t many improvements in the second half. Brissett added a second interception with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter, a dagger that gave the Patriots a 24-6 lead.
Brissett also lost a fumble late in the fourth quarter that set the Patriots’ final score.
Brissett threw a 15-yard touchdown to Amari Cooper in the fourth quarter to bring the Browns to 24-15. He completed 21 of 45 passes for 266 yards.
New England Patriots own third down, until they don’t, in first practice
The Browns defense did a good job losing on first and second downs after the Patriots got the ball back on the pick. The problem was on the third down, which was when New England was able to move the ball.
The Patriots converted a third-and-7 of their own 39 with a 17-yard pass to Kendrick Bourne. A Browns 43 third-and-9 resulted in a 29-yard completion for Devante Parker, and Greg Newsome II was flagged for pass interference in the end zone to help New England convert a Cleveland 11 third-and-7 .
However, that third down magic ran out for the Patriots when tight end Hunter Henry had a 2-yard touchdown disallowed when he went out of bounds and then returned for an illegal touchdown penalty. They had to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Nick Folk and a 3-0 lead.
Bailey Zappe isn’t playing like a rookie for the New England Patriots
There were questions about who would be the starting quarterback for the Patriots. Would Mac Jones be healthy enough to start after missing the last two games with an ankle injury, or would Zappe get his second start?
The official decision wasn’t made until 11:30 a.m. Sunday, when it was announced that Jones would be inactive and Zappe would start. Zappe then walked out and again didn’t play like a guy in his first season in the NFL.
Zappe completed 24 of 34 passes for 309 yards with two touchdowns. He broadcast it around seven different receivers, five of which had at least four receptions.
Browns kicker Cade York erases bad memories
The last time Cade York kicked into the stadium was his first two-game miss against the Chargers. That included what could have been a game-winning 54-yard field goal with 11 seconds left in the game.
York was able to begin the process of erasing those bad memories on the Browns’ second possession when he tied the score 3-3 with a 39-yard field goal at the east end (Dawg Pound) of the stadium.
The chance to hit the same goal posts that were York’s nemesis a week ago presented itself in the second quarter. This time, he connected on a 48-yarder on the west end to pull the Browns to 10-6 with 26 seconds left in the half.
York added a 51-yard field goal at the west end of the stadium early in the fourth quarter to put the Patriots up 24-9.
Myles Garrett finally gets his “record holder”
Myles Garrett entered the game half a sack behind Clay Matthews for the “official” team sack record. It’s a place he’s been since the Jets lost.
Garrett broke the record with 47 seconds left in the first quarter when he came in and released the ball from Zappe’s hand as he tried to pass. The ball squirted six yards forward, where Garrett’s teammate John Johnson III recovered.
The coin was examined for the first time, but was maintained.
The game gave Garrett 62.5 career sacks. Matthews’ official record was 62, but that only takes into account those he recorded from 1982, the year the sack was first kept as an official stat by the NFL.
The unofficial bag leader is Bill Glass with 77.5 from 1962-68. Matthews’ unofficial total comes to 75 if his first four seasons from 1978 to 1981 are included.
Rhamondre Stevenson bottled up, until it’s gone
A year ago, Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the Patriots’ loss to the Browns. And on Sunday, he faced a Cleveland run defense that had been gassed the previous two weeks by Atlanta and the Chargers after hitting a career-high 161 yards last week against Detroit.
The first eight times Stevenson ran the ball, the Browns did a good job of containing him. He had just 16 net yards on those eight carries.
The ninth time Stevenson carried the ball was very different. He took a transfer, bounced it outside to the left and ran essentially untouched for 31 yards for a Patriots touchdown and a 10-3 lead.
Second-half slump for Browns leads to blowout
The Patriots actually had four second-half possessions that didn’t produce a run. Trouble is, they had four who did, which is why they were able to turn a 10-6 halftime lead into a three-point win.
They used a combined miss tackle from Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Grant Delpit to help Jonnu Smith gain 53 yards to set up a touchdown in the third quarter. They turned a Brissett interception into a Hunter Henry touchdown catch.
The final nails in the coffin were a failed punt and fumble from Brissett that set scores that allowed the Patriots to turn a 24-15 lead into a 38-15 advantage. And that’s not to mention the failed onside kick recovery attempt on which AJ Green touched the ball while out of bounds, which the replay review captured to return the ball to New England after that the Browns were down to under nine with just over six minutes remaining.
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