Patriots quarterback Mac Jones looked like Tom Brady in building a 24-7 lead in the first half. (Cleveland Browns)
Browns defense bows to Tom Brady's rookie successor in humiliating 45-7 loss
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Instant takeaways from Browns' 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots …
1. TB12 to MJ10: Tom Brady couldn’t have done much better than Mac Jones. The rookie quarterback heir to Brady pummeled the Browns with precision passing, leading New England to four touchdowns and a field goal on his first six possessions en route to a 45-7 trouncing. Jones wound up with his first three-TD passing game of his short career. Another rookie, Rhamondre Stevenson added his first career 100-yard rushing game. The Browns’ defense erred in even boarding the team bus at the team hotel in Providence, RI. What coordinator Joe Woods put out there was a disgrace. How does that happen after three decent games in a row? Anyway, now the Browns are 5-5 after losing their fourth game to an AFC playoff contender (Chiefs, Chargers, Steelers, Patriots).
2. Mayfield out: In the midst of a terrible day, Baker Mayfield was knocked out of the game with 1:32 left in the third quarter on a hit by Matthew Judon after a short throw. That was the third hard hit in a four-play sequence in which Mayfield was sacked by Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise, buried on a full-weight hit to the ground by Wise that drew a roughing penalty, and then was decked by Judon. The hit appeared to injure Mayfield’s right knee. He was helped to his feet after several moments on the ground and then spent several minutes in the blue medical tent. The Browns made no announcement on the severity of the injury during the game.
3. Scary injury: The game screeched to a halt with 4:13 to go in the fourth quarter when cornerback Troy Hill suffered an injury attempting to make a tackle of Jakobi Meyers. Hill’s head appeared to bang off the ground. Teammates and Patriots dropped to their knees as Hill lay motionless for several minutes. He was immobilized on a wooden board and taken off the field on a mobile stretcher. The Browns reported the injury was to Hill’s neck. The club said he had movement in his extremities. Hill was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.
4. Juice denied again: Jarvis Landry went 10 games last year with no touchdowns. He’s now scoreless through the first 10 this season, though he missed four games with a knee injury. Landry was denied when he caught a short pass from Case Keenum in the fourth quarter from the Patriots’ 12-yard line and was ambushed at the 5. Landry had four catches on five targets for 26 yards. The only other wideout with a catch was Donovan Peoples-Jones.
5. Take a bow: Jones was rewarded for his best game as a pro by being lifted by Bill Belichick with 8:15 to play. He finished the day 19 of 23 for 198 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a 142.1 passer rating. Ex-Brown and Cleveland native Brian Hoyer came in and promptly swept through the Browns’ invisible defense for a 95-yard TD drive. Hoyer’s 11-yard scoring pass to Meyers was the play that Hill suffered his injury.
6. Bad Baker: Belichick’s plan to take the Browns out of their running attack worked to perfection in the first half. He did it as much offensively as defensively, as Jones led the Patriots on four consecutive scores to build a 24-7 lead. After the opening drive, on which Mayfield was 3 for 5 for 24 yards (one drop) and a TD, Mayfield missed 9 of his next 12 throws with one interception and one near interception. He was also credited with a fumble on the last play of the half when he was hit from behind as he tried to throw when the Browns should’ve just handed off and slinked to the locker room. Mayfield was 1 for 6 targeting wideouts Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz. His interception came on a forced throw for David Njoku between two Pats defenders. Safety Kyle Dugger turned in New England’s league-leading 14th interception of the year. Later, J.C. Jackson almost intercepted Mayfield’s pass for Schwartz, who looked to run the route incorrectly.
7. He’s a rookie?: Jones was sensational in the first half, directing four scoring drives with 13 of 15 passing for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Jones set the tone on his first possession (15 plays, 83 yards, consuming 9 minutes, 39 seconds) when he converted third downs needing 8, 6 and 13 yards. His 3-yard fade to tight end Hunter Henry in the end zone over Ronnie Harrison was a perfect throw. He made two beautiful throws on a killer scoring drive. First came a nice, arcing ball over Greg Newsome to Jakobi Meyers for 26 yards, and then Jones rifled a touchdown to Kendrick Bourne between Troy Hill and John Johnson from 23 yards for a TD to complete a 99-yard coast-to-coast back-breaker. Unbelievable.
8. Zap: Mayfield’s interception was returned 37 yards by Dugger to the Browns’ 5-yard line. Rhamondre Stevenson bullied it over on first down for the score. Stevenson didn’t practice all week while in concussion protocol and was just cleared to play on Saturday. The rookie from Oklahoma had 78 yards rushing and 14 receiving in the first half.
9. No post-script: Yes, the Browns scored again on their first possession, following their opening script to a tee. D’Ernest Johnson ran four times for 58 yards. Everything looked great until wide-open Njoku dropped a TD pass from the 2. Fortunately for him and the Browns, Austin Hooper made a tough catch on the back of the end zone on fourth down for the touchdown. And that was the extent of the Browns’ offense for the first half.
10. Back to the future: With Johnny Stanton active as a second fullback, the question was whether Stefanski fielded a full-house backfield or the wildcat. He used the wildcat for one play on the first drive with Stanton taking the direct snap alongside fullback Andy Janovich, and Mayfield split wide right. Stanton ran straight into a pile for no gain. The next play, the fullbacks lined up traditionally behind Mayfield, and that play was the one Njoku dropped.
11. Pre-game notes: Both teams had to dig deep into their practice squads this week. The Browns elevated Brian Hill (signed on Monday) as RB2, and also dressed return specialist JoJo Natson and fullback Johnny Stanton. Stefanski thus had two fullbacks active, raising the possibility of a Freddie Kitchens-like fullhouse backfield as an option. As expected, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was active after missing three games with a high ankle sprain. The Patriots elevated tight end Matt LaCosse to take the place of inactive Jonnu Smith, who’s been a big disappointment to them but did take some reps in their backfield this week. Also, running back Rhamondre Stevenson was made active even though he missed the entire practice week in concussion protocol.