Another rough day for Baker Mayfield.
Editor’s note: Tony Grossi is an analyst on the Cleveland Browns for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Instant takeaways on the Browns’ 27-13 loss to the New England Patriots …
1. More ugliness: Everyone knows the Patriots don’t beat themselves. They wait for their opponent to beat themselves. And everyone knows the Browns beat themselves against just about every opponent. So what happened in Gillette Stadium came as no surprise. The Patriots scored 17 points before the Browns gained a first down and took advantage of the Browns’ normal complement of mistakes to cruise to a 27-13 win – securing Bill Belichick’s 300th coaching victory against the team with which he earned his first win in 1991. The Browns fell to 2-5. The Browns litany of mistakes included: 13 penalties (including five false starts), three turnovers, two failed replay challenges, one muffed punt and a partridge in a pear tree. Two of the Browns turnovers were fumbles by Nick Chubb on his first two rushing attempts. Chubb rushed for 131 yards through Belichick’s No. 1-ranked defense. In what could be the Browns’ last game against Tom Brady (20 of 36 for 259 yards), the GOAT tossed two touchdowns and converted two plays on fourth down. Baker Mayfield (20 of 31, 194 yards, one TD, five sacks) had his 12th season interception on a goofy forward pitch to Jarvis Landry.
2. Replay challenged: Kitchens wasted two challenges on plays that didn’t appear close to being overturned. Naturally, they weren’t. The first was on a spot of the ball after a Mohamed Sanu reception on fourth-and-4. Sanu was able to turn his shoulder and make the necessary yardage to the Browns 20 for the first down. That loss of a timeout hurt the Browns on their last offensive series of the first half. Then in the fourth quarter, Kitchens challenge a pass interference penalty on Antonio Callaway that negated a 39-yard completion to Jarvis Landry. Replays clearly showed Callaway picking a New England defender, but Kitchens challenged it anyway. By blowing his two challenges, Kitchens had none left when Julian Edelman appeared to fumble on the Patriots’ next drive. It was ruled an incompletion. Keeping possession enabled New England to kick a field goal.
3. One step forward, two back: With the second half kickoff, Chubb went over 100 yards for the game with some nice runs and three Mayfield completions helped take the Browns down to the Patriots 11. But a sack by Jamie Collins on third down led to a 38-yard Austin Seibert field goal to cut the New England lead to 17-10. Then, when Brady faced third-and-10 from his own 16, James White turned a simple screen pass into a 59-yard gain. Four plays later, Brady connected with Julian Edelman for their second TD play, of 14 yards, this time beating Morgan Burnett. 24-10, Patriots.
4. The hat trick: The Browns committed three turnovers on three successive plays to bury themselves in a 17-0 hole before they gained a first down. You figure in their inglorious expansion history that must have happened before, but still ... Down, 3-0, Chubb got his first rushing attempt in three series and he promptly fumbled when guard Joel Bitonio accidentally kicked him in the right shoulder pad while being flung to the ground. Dont’a Hightower returned it 26 yards for a touchdown and 10-0 New England lead. After the kickoff, Chubb ran hard through early traffic and had a 3-man escort to the end zone. But cornerback Jonathan Jones hustled from behind and chopped the ball out of Chubb’s hands. The Patriots recovered at their 4, but was forced to punt. Then on the very next Browns offensive play, Mayfield tried one of those safe forward pitch plays to Jarvis Landry, who was lined up tight next to the left tackle. Defensive lineman Lawrence Guy read it so well, he intercepted the pitch. Two plays later, Edelman beat Joe Schobert for an 8-yard TD pass from Brady and it was 17-0, New England.
5. Time mismanagement: The Browns had a chance to get into the game after Denzel Ward blocked a Jim Nugent chip shot field goal try of 29 yards with 2:19 to go in the first half. The Browns were down, 17-7. A two-minute TD drive would cut the defecit to three, and they owned the second half kickoff. But after two first downs, the drive blew up. After a Mayfield sack back to the Browns’ 29-yard line, Kitchens burned his third timeout with :26 to go. Then came a false start by Justin McCray. With 76 yards to go in 26 seconds, Mayfield tossed one harmless completion to Dontrell Hilliard. The Browns didn’t even bother hurrying. Time ran out on another little pass to Hilliard.
6. Long time: Mayfield’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Harris with 7:44 to play in the second quarter was his fifth TD to a tight end. The wide receivers have one.
7. Say what?: Rain fell on Gillette Stadium for three hours prior to kickoff. Looked like a day to play smash-mouth football. Yet after their first defensive stand, the Browns came out and passed (incomplete for Antonio Callaway), passed (too high for Landry), and passed (seven yards to Odell Beckham Jr.).
8. Down to the wire: The Browns did not announce their change at left tackle until the required reporting of inactive players 90 minutes before kickoff. It was no surprise that McCray was announced as the starter there. Eric Kush did maintain his starting job at right guard. But the Browns alternated every now and then with Wyatt Teller. Also, linebacker Genard Avery was made active for only the second time in seven games. Avery had a pass rush role as an interior linemen in nickel situations. He pressured Brady into a throwaway on the first defensive series of the day.