The Patriots’ defense continues its domination in Cleveland

Oct 16, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Carl Davis Jr. (98) celebrates his fumble recovery with linebacker Matthew Judon (9) against the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 16, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Carl Davis Jr. (98) celebrates his fumble recovery with linebacker Matthew Judon (9) against the Cleveland Browns during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Patriots’ defense has been nearly unstoppable all season long and that continued once again in Cleveland on Sunday.

Playing against a very similarly built and performing team in the Browns, the outcome of the game could’ve easily gone either way. To pile up wins before the bye week, the defense brought the pressure early and all game long. Browns’ quarterback Jacoby Brissett was uncomfortable in his attempts to make any play which led to two interceptions and four sacks on the day.

After facing the highest-scoring offense in the Lions last week, the Patriots were facing an equally difficult challenge on Sunday needing to slow down the league’s top rushing offense. Despite lining up against the top running back duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the defense neutralized the entire ground game to a mere 70 total yards. It was an impressive feat considering the odds and demonstrated how far the run defense has come over the last several weeks.

With more winnable games on the way, the defense must maintain their aggressive performance, particularly as they face some tougher opponents. As the offense appears on the right track and finally starting to click, the Patriots are well on their way to being a well-rounded team that can be competitive against the rest of the league.

Best performers on defense for the Patriots

Kyle Dugger

Could the game have started any stronger for the Patriots than picking off Jacoby Brissett on the second play of the game? Taking the field and immediately making an impactful play is indicative of how the defense has been playing over the last few weeks. And who better to set the tone of the game than Kyle Dugger?

Facing a team with a few explosive pass-catchers, Dugger kept those he matched up with under lock and key for mostly the entirety of the game. Outside of making the mistake of tracking the ball too early and for too long allowing David Njoku to make a 33-yard reception, the safety didn’t allow another reception for the rest of the game.

In usual form, Dugger was all over the field on Sunday. Not only was he shutting down receivers, but he also dominated Kareem Hunt at the line, ending any possible play to happen. He also ended the day with a team-high eight tackles and two defended passes. Dugger continues to be an important cog in the machine that is the Patriots’ defense and brings the versatility and aggressiveness they thrive on week after week.

Deatrich Wise Jr.

Being voted captain this season for the first time in his career has made a drastic impact on Wise’s performance, in a good way.

Since the season began, he has consistently been a threat to opposing quarterbacks and has risen to the challenges set before him. With Matthew Judon leading the way last year for quarterback pressures/hits/sacks etc, Wise has now stepped up to be his number two and his performances over the last few games have been impressive, to say the least.

In Sunday’s matchup, Wise led the team with seven quarterback pressures; a sack, a QB hit, and five hurries. With another sack this week, he now totals five on the year, tying his career-high from his rookie season. And through the first six games, he’s well on his way to smashing his career-best numbers from that year as well.

As the season continues and so many games left to be played, Wise’s production can only get better. Pairing up with Judon as the most dominant force on the defensive line will inevitably benefit the entire defense, especially as Judon carried much of the workload last season. Wise’s impressive performance so far has a lot of time to get even better and it’ll be exciting to watch for the next several weeks.

Jalen Mills

Having a much quieter season than others in the secondary, Mills had a noteworthy performance on Sunday that seems to have slid under the radar for most. But given how well the defensive backfield is performing, maybe going a bit unnoticed can work in his favor.

In midst of a stressful game for Jacoby Brissett, Mills got his hands on the second interception of the day halfway through the third quarter. In the play, it appeared there was a miscommunication between Brissett and David Njoku, who the pass was intended for. Mills ran with Njoku and tracked the ball perfectly to move in position to make the grab. He returned it for 15 yards, putting the offense on Cleveland’s 40-yard line which then led to another scoring drive.

In coverage, Mills was given the tall task of matching up with Amari Cooper with Jonathan Jones absent due to injury. Cooper was targeted four times with Mills covering him but was only able to bring in one catch for 13 yards. In total, Mills went 1/6 on the day and has only allowed 10 receptions when targeted so far this season.

He may not be the CB1 that many were hoping for and he may still not be in that position yet. But Mills’ performance through the first six games has been on point and should be recognized as such.

Carl Davis Jr.

Although he wasn’t a massive contributor throughout the game, Carl Davis gave us a fun moment  that’s too great to leave out of the defensive highlights.

Late in the fourth quarter, with pressure on the side from Matthew Judon and a batted pass by Deatrich Wise, Davis recovered the fumble and ran it back 17 yards, and celebrated in the best way possible with his teammates. This set up another touchdown for the Patriots, officially icing the game and gaining another win.

Pass rush

The Patriots pass rush has been a roll this season and they made sure to get in Brissett’s face throughout the entire game. On top of landing four sacks on the day, the defense allowed Brissett to complete only 46% of his passes. They took the quarterback down eight times and brought the pressure on 34.7% of his drop-backs to force incompletions and throwaways.

Breaking down individual performances, a few names stood out.

Matthew Judon – Credited with a hit and three hurries, Judon’s phenomenal season continues through the sixth game. He was also responsible for a stop on 4th down, making it the seventh straight stop on fourth down by the Patriots’ defense over the last two games.

Davon Godchaux – Also credited with a sack in this game, and the first one of the season for him, Godchaux pressured Brissett twice and also tallied a tackle for a loss.

Honorable mentions

Mack Wilson and Anfernee Jennings – Late in the third quarter on the Brown’s third drive of the half, both Wilson and Jennings were credited with their first (half) sacks of their Patriots’ careers. The play forced a 4th down and a punt by the Browns. Jennings was also credited with a hit and a hurry on Brissett.

Jack Jones – As the rookie’s performance continues to rise, Jones only gave up one catch for 12 yards on four attempts against the Browns. After allowing the catch by Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jack then defended three straight incompletions, two to Amari Cooper and Michael Woods. He was also credited with a pass-breakup on one of the incompletions to Cooper.

Jahlani Tavai – Although he’s had a quiet season so far, Tavai came up big in the fourth quarter when the Browns attempted a two-point conversion. Applying pressure to Brissett, forcing the throw out early, Tavai brought the quarterback to the ground and the play resulted in an incomplete pass.

Bonus stats of the day

  • Defense held the Browns to only 70 yards rushing after averaging 192.4 (via
  • Nick Chubb totaled only 12 carries for 56 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and was kept out of the end zone. Before Sunday’s game, Chubb had three straight games of 100+ yards and was averaging 6.1 YPC. (via
  • Opponent’s running backs have been kept out of the end zone through the first six games. The longest streak the defense has not allowed an RB to score is eight games in 2019. (via
  • With two more stops on 4th down conversion attempts in this game, the Patriots defense has now stopped seven straight 4th down tries over the last two games. (via The Hall)