The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Patriots Dominate Browns, 45-7

Posted on | November 15, 2021 | Comments Off on Patriots Dominate Browns, 45-7

Mac Jones hands off to Rhamondre Stevenson.

On Saturday, I wrote that if the New England Patriots could “get a convincing win” against the Cleveland Browns, fans would begin talking about the team in Super Bowl terms. Sunday’s 45-7 win was about as convincing as could be and, having won four games in a row, the Patriots now have the second-longest current winning streak in the NFL (the Tennessee Titans have won six in a row). They now have just three days to get ready for a Thursday night game at Atlanta. The Falcons got beat badly by Dallas on Sunday, and New England will be heavily favored Thursday, where a win would put them at 7-4 with six games left to play.

The intriguing possibilities of which Mike Reiss speaks are obvious enough. At this point, is there any team the Patriots can’t beat? They’re two weeks away from a home game against the Titans, currently the best team in the AFC, and you can’t rule out a New England victory. No rookie quarterback has ever led his team to the Super Bowl, but Mac Jones is starting to look like he may be the first to do it:

Mac Jones looked like a seasoned veteran with his best performance of the season, raising the possibility this team could make a legitimate postseason run. Most promising for the Patriots is Jones had been grinding through a couple of so-so games the previous two weeks, sparking questions about whether he had possibly hit a rookie wall. He smashed through it against the Browns (19-of-23 for 198 yards, three TDs), displaying the accuracy and decision-making that had shown up more consistently earlier in the season, and he was poised and on-point in third-and-long situations. The Patriots have proved they can consistently run the ball, and with Jones and the passing game finding its groove, the offense looked the best it has all season.

See how the artful euphemism “legitimate postseason run” is used there to avoid what every Patriot fan is thinking: Super Bowl, baby!

The way New England played Sunday could convince any doubter:

A month ago, the New England Patriots were 2-4 and appeared headed for a second straight season of irrelevance.
Four games later, they are back in a familiar spot as a playoff contender in the AFC.
Mac Jones threw three touchdown passes, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for a career-high 100 yards and two scores, and the Patriots rolled to a 45-7 victory over Cleveland Sunday as the Browns lost quarterback Baker Mayfield to a knee injury.
The Browns (5-5) have dropped four of their last six and haven’t won at New England since 1992, when Bill Belichick was their coach.
Jones finished 19 of 23 for 198 yards passing. Hunter Henry added a pair of TD receptions as New England (6-4) went 7 of 9 on third down.
“That’s how you want to play the game of football,” Jones said. “It’s just a three-level game and when we click on all cylinders, we can be pretty good.” . . .
Cleveland got on the scoreboard first via a 2-yard TD from Mayfield to Austin Hooper.
New England responded with a 15-play, 83-yard drive on which Jones went 6-for-6 for 55 yards. The drive took 9:39 off the clock, concluding when Jones tossed a 3-yard touchdown to Hunter Henry, his sixth TD catch in seven games.
The Patriots then turned defense into offense. Kyle Dugger returned an interception 37 yards, setting up a 5-yard TD run by Stevenson.
J.C. Jackson dropped what would have been an interception on the Browns’ ensuing possession, forcing a punt that pinned the Patriots on the 1-yard line. It didn’t stop them from marching the length of the field in 11 plays and scoring on Jones’ 23-yard TD pass to Kendrick Bourne.
The Patriots added two more long drives in the second half. They marched 92 yards to Stevenson’s second TD, a 2-yard run in the third quarter. Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer led a 95-yard scoring drive in the fourth.

Putting together four long touchdown drives like that is what inspired the familiar victorious feeling Mike Reiss described. As in the glorious days of Brady — Saint Thomas of Foxborough — the Patriots cranked out first downs like a machine, converting on 7 of 9 third downs. Here are two of those conversions, from their 99-yard first half drive:

Being a ’Bama fan, naturally I want to brag on Mac Jones, but what about that rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson? He was a fourth-round draft pick, and the reason he went so low in the draft — 120th overall — was because he’d gotten suspended at Oklahoma for some unexplained disciplinary infraction, creating “character” questions. NFL teams are reluctant to spend big money on a player who has off-field issues, but the Patriots took a chance with Stevenson, and he looks like a winner. Now, back to bragging on Mac, whose accuracy was amazing:

To hit that kind of pass against double coverage? Wow.

As Jones himself said, though, it was an all-around team effort, and if the Patriots can replicate that performance down the stretch, there is absolutely no limit to how far they can go this year. Even though the players constantly repeat they’re taking the season one day at a time, fans are under no such obligation, and if New England fans aren’t yet thinking ahead to Feb. 13, they should be. All the way, baby!



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