Bill Belichick hopes to surpass Don Shula's coaching wins record with Mac Jones as his quarterback. (Sports Illustrated)
Cleveland Browns scouting report: New England Patriots
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is an analyst on the Cleveland Browns for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Browns v. New England Patriots
Sunday, 1 p.m., in Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
Last game: Defeated Carolina Panthers, 24-6, Nov. 7, in Charlotte, NC.
Coach: Bill Belichick, 279-107, 22nd year; 316-152 overall.
Series record: Browns lead, 13-12 (counting postseason).
Last meeting: Patriots won, 27-13, Oct. 27, 2019, in Foxboro.
League rankings: Offense is 19th overall (19th rushing, 15th passing), defense is ninth overall (14th rushing, 11th passing) and turnover differential is plus-2.
Things to watch
1. Bill Belichick is in his 47th year of coaching in the NFL. At 69, he is the second-oldest active coach in the NFL. When he was named coach of the Browns in 1991, he was the league’s youngest coach at 39. Thirty years later, his coaching rival, Kevin Stefanski, is 39. Stefanski was 9 years old when Belichick was hired in Cleveland. So how long will Belichick coach? Most now assume he wants to surpass Don Shula as the NFL’s all-time winningest coach (Shula leads, 347 to 316). The only coach with more league championships than Belichick’s six was Cleveland’s Paul Brown with seven (four in All-America Football Conference and three in NFL). Belichick’s 12 Super Bowl appearances as an assistant and head coach are five more than anyone else.
2. The Patriots have rebounded from a 1-3 start by cutting down on mistakes that killed them in the first month (two punts blocked, 12 men on the field penalties, turnovers in the red zone). Belichick’s defense, jointly coordinator by son Steve Belichick and ex-Patriots linebacker Jarod Mayo, has been the catalyst to the turnaround. Edge rusher Matthew Judon (nine sacks) and cornerback J.C. Jackson (five interceptions, one for a TD) are the best players on defense. Belichick has essentially gone to a three-safety base look, featuring Adrian Phillips in the box, Kyle Dugger as the coverage specialist and Devin McCourty as the center fielder.
3. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones has as many wins (five) as fellow rookie quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Davis Mills combined. Jones plays with poise within the New England offensive system and accurately distributes the ball in high-percentage passes off play-action, including screens and checkdowns. Jones is ninth in completion percentage (68.0) and 22nd in passer rating (89.8).
4. The Patriots are down to two healthy running backs. They traded Sony Michel to the Rams in preseason. Their third-down back James White is on injured reserve with a hip injury. Damien Harris (concussion) and Rhamondre Stevenson (concussion) may be out this week. That leaves Brandon Bolden (22 carries, 108 yards) and J.J. Taylor (13 for 26) as the primary ball-carries on Sunday.
Did you know … ?
1. Prior to this year, the Patriots’ win percentage at home since 1970 (.830) was the best in the NFL. But they are 1-4 this year in Gillette Stadium, dropping their .809 win percentage to second behind the Miami Dolphins in the old Orange Bowl (.819).
2. After their first losing season (7-9) in 19 years, the Patriots invested $175 million in guaranteed money to over 20 free agents.
3. Jones was taken 15th overall by Belichick after a strong recommendation from Alabama coach and former Belichick assistant Nick Saban. Jones is the first quarterback drafted in the first round by Belichick.
4. The last time the Browns won in Foxboro was in 1992 when Belichick was their coach.
5. This is the third stint with the Patriots for Brian Hoyer (2009-11, 2017-18, 2020-21) and Jamie Collins (2013-16, 2019, 2021).
Small world: Bill Belichick was 37-45 as Browns head coach (1991-95) … Linebacker Jamie Collins played with the Browns 2016-18 … Quarterback Brian Hoyer was 9-6 as a Browns starter 2013-14 … Linebacker Jamie Collins played for the Browns in 2016-18 … Tight ends coach Nick Caley is a native of Canton and attended John Carroll University … Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is a native of Canton, attended John Carroll and is the son of legendary Ohio high school coach Thom McDaniels.