Patriots are halfway to a perfect record after using early turnovers to bury Browns

Patriots are halfway to a perfect record after using early turnovers to bury Browns

The New England Patriots kept doing Patriots things. The Cleveland Browns persisted in doing Browns things.

That put the Patriots halfway to an unblemished regular season, and further cemented the Browns as one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments of 2019.

The Patriots improved their record to 8-0 with a more-of-the-same performance Sunday against the Browns in rainy Foxborough, Mass. The defense forced turnovers by the Browns on three straight first-quarter offensive snaps, scoring a touchdown on one of those miscues. The offense did enough in a supporting role, and the Patriots coasted to a 27-13 triumph.

That gave Bill Belichick his 300th victory as an NFL head coach, including postseason wins. The first 37 of those came as head coach of the Browns. Now he’s seeking his seventh Super Bowl triumph in tandem with quarterback Tom Brady in New England, and he has one of his most powerful teams.

“It’s a great privilege to coach this team. … I’ve had a lot of good players, a lot of great players,” Belichick said at his postgame news conference. “They’re the ones that play the games. … Players win games in this league.”

The Patriots have outscored their opponents, 250-61, this season. Their average margin of victory dropped to 23.6 points. They scored the game’s first 17 points Sunday and, to that point, were on a 71-0 scoring run over a three-game span, having scored the game’s final 21 points against the New York Giants and all 33 points in a shutout win over the New York Jets.

The 2007 Patriots crafted the only 16-0 regular season in league history, taking an 18-0 record into the Super Bowl before being upset by the Giants. For these Patriots, a 16-0 regular season and the league’s first-ever 19-0 season appear within reach.

Brady threw two touchdown passes to wide receiver Julian Edelman and the Patriots were not seriously challenged by the Browns. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower scored the fourth touchdown of the season by the New England defense.

Cleveland did run the ball effectively with tailback Nick Chubb, who rushed for 131 yards. And the Browns managed the second touchdown pass of the season by a Patriots opponent, a second-quarter strike from quarterback Baker Mayfield to tight end Demetrius Harris.

But Chubb lost two fumbles, one of which was scooped up by Hightower for his touchdown, and Mayfield threw a flip-pass interception during the Browns’ early turnover spree. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was limited to five catches for 52 yards and the Browns failed to make good on wideout Jarvis Landry’s vow during the week that they’d win this game and “it’s just that simple.”

Their record dropped to 2-5, that after the considerable preseason hype they generated with their trade with the New York Giants for Beckham. Coach Freddie Kitchens hurt the cause Sunday with a pair of failed instant replay challenges, one on the spot of the football and one on an offensive pass interference call against Cleveland. Neither was supported by much — if any — video evidence and each amounted to Kitchens hoping for something to go his team’s way during a season in which next to nothing is going the Browns’ way.

No one should be overly surprised. They are, after all, the Browns. It was a day in Foxborough in which each team played its role perfectly.In-game updates
Pats lead by two TDs: The Browns were threatening to make a game of it, but the Patriots will take a two-touchdown lead into the fourth quarter.

The big play of the third quarter was a 59-yard catch and run by Patriots running back James White on a third-and-10 screen pass. The Cleveland defense had allowed only one previous conversion by an opposing offense all season on third down and 10 or more yards. White’s long play set up the second touchdown pass of the day from quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Julian Edelman, this time a 14-yarder.

The Browns had success early in the third quarter running the ball at the New England defense with tailback Nick Chubb. But Cleveland had to settle for a 38-yard field goal by kicker Austin Seibert after quarterback Baker Mayfield was sacked on third down by Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins.

Chubb has run for 128 yards entering the fourth quarter. (Patriots 24, Browns 10 after the third quarter)

Halftime in Foxborough: The Browns steadied themselves after a first quarter in which they committed turnovers on three straight offensive plays and dug themselves a 17-point hole. They got a 21-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield to tight end Demetrius Harris in the second quarter and trail by only 17-7 at halftime at rain-soaked Gillette Stadium.

The Mayfield-to-Harris play was only the second touchdown pass surrendered this season by the New England defense. It also snapped a 71-0 scoring run by the Patriots over a three-game span. They scored the game’s final 21 points against the New York Giants, all 33 points in a shutout victory over the New York Jets and the first 17 points Sunday against the Browns.

But Cleveland is back in this game. The Browns’ Denzel Ward, who dropped a would-be interception in the first quarter, blocked a field-goal attempt by Patriots kicker Mike Nugent to keep the deficit at 10 points. It’s clear that Patriots Coach Bill Belichick doesn’t have much trust at this point in Nugent and his team’s kicking operation. Belichick passed up a 42-yard field goal try earlier on that drive in favor of a fourth-and-four attempt by his offense. The Patriots converted with a completion from quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. Browns Coach Freddie Kitchens wasted a replay challenge on the spot of the football on that play, and the call on the field was upheld. But Ward’s block erased that mistake and kept the Browns relatively close at halftime.

Nick Chubb had 92 first-half rushing yards for the Browns but lost two fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown by the Patriots. (Patriots 17, Browns 7 at halftime)

Browns commit three early turnovers, New England builds 17-0 lead in first quarter: The Patriots are doing Patriots things. The Browns are doing Browns things. And New England, therefore, has a 17-point lead after an opening quarter in rainy Foxborough, Mass., in which the Browns committed turnovers on three straight offensive snaps.

The Patriots’ dominant defense scored its fourth touchdown of the season when linebacker Dont’a Hightower scooped up a fumble by Browns tailback Nick Chubb and raced 26 yards to the end zone. On the Browns’ next play from scrimmage, following a Patriots’ kickoff out of bounds, Chubb broke into the free for a 44-yard run to the New England 16-yard line. But he ended the play by losing his second fumble of the quarter.

The Cleveland defense forced a punt but on the Browns’ next offensive play, quarterback Baker Mayfield’s forward flip for wide receiver Jarvis Landry ended up in the hands of New England’s Lawrence Guy for what was ruled an interception. That led to an eight-yard touchdown pass from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Julian Edelman.

Earlier, the New England offense held the ball for nearly six minutes but settled for a 20-yard field goal by kicker Mike Nugent. The Patriots converted a fourth-and-seven try from the Cleveland 33-yard line with a 10-yard completion from Brady to Edelman. But the Patriots’ drive stalled at the 2-yard line and Brady nearly threw a third-down interception, with the ball being dropped in the end zone by Browns cornerback Denzel Ward. (Patriots 17, Browns 0 after the 1st quarter)

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