WHY DID THE PATRIOTS LOSE?
Better question might be, ‘How didn’t the Patriots lose?’ You name it, the Patriots struggled with it. For starters, the defense gave up over 400 yards (404) for the fourth time in eight games. Of those yards, 230 came on the ground which was the most given up by the Patriots since the Miami Dolphins ran up 256 on Dec. 29, 2002. The Patriots offense, which is struggling to find places to go for big plays, has only gained more than 400 once – against Buffalo — and had 283 against the Browns. Tom Brady had a lower passer rating (90.5) than Browns rookie starter Colt McCoy (101.6). Oh, and the special teams fumbled a kickoff, had a punt partially blocked and allowed a 36-yard kickoff return.
C Dan Koppen (undisclosed), DE Mike Wright (left leg) and CB Kyle Arrington (left leg) each returned to the game.
K Stephen Gostkowski (quad) left the game and was not able to return. Wes Welker had to conduct the place kicking duties.
THREE THINGS TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT
1. The Patriots are still (sort of) tied for best record in NFL: They’re tied with the New York Jets at 6-2 in the AFC East, but the Jets won the first matchup between the two teams. Rematch is set for Dec. 6. Patriots are also tied for the best record win the NFL with the Ravens, Falcons, and possibly the Steelers, Colts and Chiefs (depending on their late or Monday night games).
2. Woodhead and Hernandez: We’ll have more on this in the next section, but they were the Patriots’ offense. Aaron Hernandez was targeted a team-high nine times and led with five catches, 48 yards and two touchdowns. Danny Woodhead had 54 yards on nine carries, and 38 yards on two receptions.
3. They left Cleveland. Always a positive.
THREE THINGS TO WORRY ABOUT
1. Patriots got manhandled: It’s one thing to lose a game at the end, but the Patriots were dominated in all three phases. This was the first time in a long time where an opponent was much more physical for all 60 minutes than a Bill Belichick-coached team. The Browns imposed their will on the Patriots. And made it look easy.
2. Rush defense: Browns RB Peyton Hillis ran for 184 yards on 29 attempts (6.3 average). And it was the same from the first quarter (9 for 63, 7.0) to the last (9 for 70, 7.8). That success on the ground made the Patriots hesitate when it came to rushing Colt McCoy because they needed to stay square against the run. McCoy wasn’t sacked once, and according to the stat sheet, the Patriots didn’t register a quarterback hit.
3. Lack of offensive options: It’s one thing for the Patriots to survive without Randy Moss when Deion Branch is healthy. But he wasn’t for the second-straight game. Running the ball helped immensely against the Vikings, but 68 yards on 18 attempts by running backs (3.8 average) isn’t going to cut it. Branch is running on one leg. Wes Welker isn’t quite his old self. TE Ron Gronkowski was made invisible as the Browns tried to hit him early and often, and Brandon Tate dropped a key third-down play. That left Hernandez and Woodhead for Brady to use at weapons. They need much more if they aren’t able to run the ball.
At Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2), 8:20 p.m. Sunday
Result: At Cincinnati (2-5) on Monday night.
What’s up with them: The Patriots will have the benefit of the Steelers coming off a short week as they travel to take on the Bengals tomorrow night. In its last game, Pittsburgh lost 20-10 at New Orleans. Steelers had won two-straight after their bye week (and getting QB Ben Roethlisberger back from suspension) before the loss to the Saints.