Week 8 stock watch: Patriots grind out rainy win over Browns
The New England Patriots remain undefeated on the year after their home victory over an undisciplined Cleveland Browns team.
The New England Patriots improved to 8-0 after their 27-13 win at home versus the Cleveland Browns. It wasn’t their best game of the season, but they were able to emerge as the victors and remain perfect through the first half of their regular season schedule.
New England was inconsistent offensively for most of this game. Tom Brady and the offense are still attempting to find their identity. The Patriots put up 318 yards of total offense against the Browns, but they are still figuring things out on that side of the ball.
The Patriots defense probably had their worst game of the season versus the Browns. That said, they still managed to come away with three turnovers, score a defensive touchdown, and ultimately limit Cleveland’s offense to just one touchdown. New England’s defense is still the strength of this team.
The Patriots played well enough in all three phases to get a victory over the Browns at home, and they are off to a great start thus far in 2019. That said, there are still areas that they need to improve upon as the season progresses.
Here are the top takeaways from Week 8:
Julian Edelman has consistently been New England’s best offensive weapon this season. Tom Brady’s favorite target had another big game in Week 8. He caught eight of his 11 targets for 78 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP is still one of the best slot receivers in the game in his eleventh NFL season. It will be interesting to see if his role in the Patriots offense changes with the addition of Mohamed Sanu to the receiving corps. Edelman should benefit from playing alongside another receiver who can operate out of the slot, even if his numbers don’t end up reflecting it.
Jones is the only consistently active member of the Patriots secondary who has not recorded an interception in 2019. Although he wasn’t able to pick off Baker Mayfield in this contest, he did come up with a takeaway via a forced fumble. Jones chased down Nick Chubb from behind early in the first quarter and punched the ball out, which led to New England’s second fumble recovery of the game. He turned what would have been a 40-plus yard gain for the Browns – and maybe a touchdown – into a turnover.
New England’s pass-catching running back finished the game as the team’s second-leading receiver. He hauled in four of his five targets for 75 yards. He didn’t do much with his two rushing attempts, but that has rarely been a big part of his game.
The majority of White’s receiving yards came on a 59-yard screen pass when the Patriots were struggling to move the ball on offense. Cleveland had cut New England’s lead down to one score, but White’s long catch-and-run on third-and-long allowed them to regain momentum and extend their lead to two touchdowns a few plays later.
New England continues to struggle in the kicking game. Nugent had a 29-yard field goal blocked in the second quarter. He also missed a 34-yard field goal later in the game. The rainy conditions during Sunday’s game may have played a factor in Nugent’s misses, but NFL kickers should be expected to make anything inside of 40 yards. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Nugent was released by the Patriots on Tuesday… so the team will need to find a new kicker for their Week 9 game against the Baltimore Ravens.
Red Zone Offense
The Patriots offense only scored two touchdowns in their six trips inside the red zone. The offense is leaving points on the field, and that could end up hurting them if they find themselves in a close game during the second half of their schedule. New England has struggled to move the ball on the ground in short yardage situations, and they are still attempting to figure things out in the passing game. They will have to find a way to be more productive inside their opponents’ 20-yard line going forward.
Nick Chubb was running all over the Patriots defense in this game. He accounted for 131 rushing yards on 20 carries. Chubb was the second back this year to eclipse the 100-yard mark versus New England’s defense.
The Browns were able to run the ball down the Patriots’ throats for most of this game, and Chubb was rarely ever brought down by first contact. This would have likely been a much closer game if Chubb didn’t fumble on his first two carries of the contest.