By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, gather ’round and hold your loved ones dear, for we have one shocking story to tell: The New England Patriots have won another football game.
OK, sure, fine, whatever. That’s not the least bit shocking. But please understand, it’s getting difficult to try to say it differently each week.
In this particular victory, the Patriots took a 17-0 lead before the first quarter was over, and that was all the scoring they’d need en route to a 24-13 victory at Gillette Stadium.
The game had its highs. It also had its lows. And wouldn’t you know it, they’re all listed in a neat and tidy fashion right here for you.
It’s feasible to imagine a scenario where the Browns either kept the score close or even won the whole game if only Lawrence Guy had not been playing football.
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Guy didn’t technically strip the ball from Nick Chubb on the Browns’ fifth offensive play of the game, but he wrapped up Chubb to prevent the running back from recovering his own fumble after a stray foot kicked the ball loose.
The ultra-rare kick fumble. Chubb never saw it coming pic.twitter.com/64HqcW2YvT
— Barstool Sports (@BarstoolsTweets) October 27, 2019
Dont’a Hightower then scooped up the lost football and brought it home to the end zone, scoring the Patriots’ fourth defensive touchdown of the season. (They’ve only allowed four touchdowns all year, by the way.)
Two series later, on the first play for Cleveland, Guy busted into the backfield and intercepted a pass that is designed to never be intercepted.
Es gibt Dinge, die sieht man nicht alle Tage:
Baker Mayfield auf Lawrence Guy
— René Bugner (Rainbowcave) (@RNBWCV) October 27, 2019
I don’t speak German, but I believe that translates to “Lawrence Guy is a beast, holy moly, can’t believe it, wow!”
Likewise, the game could have gone drastically differently if not for an all-out effort play by Jonathan Jones.
Immediately after the Browns were deflated by Hightower’s scoop-and-score, Chubb appeared to have made it all up himself, jump-cutting and bursting his way to what looked like it would be a 60-yard touchdown run. Yet Jones came flying from the opposite end of the field after actually getting knocked to the turf, and as he approached Chubb from behind, the cornerback raised his arm to the heavens to punch the ball free.
Jones’ punch was a direct hit, and the ball squirted out inside the Patriots’ 5-yard line. Devin McCourty recovered, and either three or seven certain points were taken off the board.
— Gradick Sports (@GradickSports) October 28, 2019
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) October 27, 2019
Again, just like with Guy, had that play not been made, the whole game is different.
Even Ben Watson had to be impressed by that effort.
The Patriots may play on artificial turf, but their offense was really stuck in the mud for a stretch of this game. After a touchdown late in the first quarter, the offense went three-and-out and then had a missed field goal in the second quarter. After a long Cleveland field goal drive to start the second half cut the New England lead to seven points, the Patriots’ offense needed a spark.
Up stepped James White, who caught a screen pass on a third-and-10 from New England’s 16-yard line. White’s speed and vision led to him navigating the field with ease, picking up 59 yards and getting the Patriots in position to put points on the board.
Four plays later (after a critical Sony Michel first-down pickup on a third-and-1), the Patriots were back in the end zone, leading by two touchdowns. It was smooth sailing from there.
The Patriots’ red zone offense wasn’t great in this game. But when they did execute, it was largely thanks to Julian Edelman.
The 33-year-old receiver had his first two-touchdown game since Week 8 of the 2015 season, and just the fourth two-touchdown game of his entire career.
He led the Patriots with eight passes (double the next-best receiver) and 78 yards, and of course the two TDs. Those scores were badly needed.
BONUS: Tom Brady
Come on, people. This man is 42 years old and he’s still throwing stunningly beautiful passes on the football field for you every week.
Brady dime pic.twitter.com/1qG6jiKhZP
— Tucker Boynton (@Tucker_TnL) October 27, 2019
Brady set a new record for most TD passes thrown by a QB in his age 42 season, so it is no surprise that he’s the best old quarterback of all time.
BONUS: Sack Masters
Another game, another five sacks for the Patriots’ defense. They now have 31 sacks on the year. That is most in the NFL.
In this one, Adam Butler had two sacks, Jamie Collins had 1.5, Kyle Van Noy had one, and Chase Winovich had a half-sack.
Running Game/Sony Michel
The offense did enough to win in this game, but it wasn’t particularly spectacular. And while the absence of Shaq Mason had to have made an impact, the Patriots still should have found more success on the ground against one of the NFL’s very worst run defenses.
Sony Michel had 21 carries for just 74 yards, a 3.5-yard average. He broke one 16-yard run, and he had an 11-yard pickup on his first touch of the game, but he had 10 rushes of three yards or less.
Throw in the work of Rex Burkhead (3 rushes, 4 yards), James White (2 rushes, 4 yards) and Julian Edelman (1 rush, -3 yards), and the Patriots as a team rushed for just 79 yards on 27 carries. Suffice it to say, they’re going to have to improve with their ground game.
In what was a bad yin for that yang, the Patriots also struggled to contain Nick Chubb. While the two fumbles were huge, Chubb still ran roughshod over the Patriots. (I don’t have the slightest clue what “roughshod” really means, but it feels appropriate.)
Chubb ran for 131 yards on 20 carries, and he caught a pass for seven yards on a second-and-6. He made everybody not named Jonathan Jones look bad on that aforementioned 44-yard scamper, and he had what was the best offensive performance against this Patriots defense all year.
Field Goal Operation
Bill Belichick made sure to note earlier this year that when things go right or wrong with a field goal, then all of the blame and credit should be applied to the entire 11-man unit.
In that case, everyone bears some blame for what was again a shaky kicking day for the Patriots.
After a promising 60-plus-yard drive stalled out at the 11, the Patriots settled for a chip shot of a field goal. But Lawrence Guy didn’t get a hand on Denzel Ward, who was rushing off the defense’s right side. Mike Nugent may have been a split-second late in starting his approach for the kick, and Ward was able to Mutombo it, keeping the Patriots’ lead at 10 points late in the second quarter.
Later, Nugent flat-out missed a 34-yard field goal, and his 20-yard gimme in the first quarter had the trajectory of a 2-iron from 350 yards out.
It was not a banner day for the kicking operation.
Red Zone Offense
Tom Brady has got himself a nasty habit of throwing the ball at opponents in the end zone.
He got away with it this time, as Ward dropped what should have been a pick. But Brady’s already been picked twice this year at the goal line or in the end zone, and that third-down throw was one he needs to keep holstered.
In total, the Patriots scored just two touchdowns on their six red zone trips on Sunday, which ought to give Josh McDaniels and Brady some homework as they get ready for Baltimore next weekend.