Patriots

Complete team effort was a vintage Bill Belichick victory

They keep getting better at every aspect, and their rookie quarterback is special.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff
There are smiles all around as Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (center) is mobbed in the end zone by teammates after finally scoring his first NFL touchdown. Jim Davis/Globe Staff


Welcome to the Unconventional Review, an instant reaction to standouts, stats, and storylines from the Patriots’ most recent game . . .

The Patriots played the 1,000th game in their existence Sunday, regular season and postseason included. They have won 562 of those games. Not many of their regular-season wins have been as thorough and encouraging against an alleged quality opponent as Sunday’s 45-7 throttling of the Browns.

Make no mistake: This was a vintage Bill Belichick-era victory, a complete team effort, and now we can understand why he praised his team even when they started 2-4. The Patriots scored 45 unanswered points while winning their fourth game in a row. The defense held the Browns to 217 total yards and one third-down conversion. The Patriots ran for 184 yards against the league’s No. 3 defense. If you don’t think they’re contenders in the AFC, get back to us when you’re no longer in denial.

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They keep getting better at every aspect, and their rookie quarterback is special. Mac Jones threw three touchdown passes and had four incompletions. What’s that? Yeah, it probably is good that the rumor about the Patriots attempting to trade up for Baker Mayfield three years ago didn’t become reality.

I keep rewinding in my mind two of the most impressive Jones-led drives from Sunday. The first: The Patriots’ opening possession, coming when they were in a 7-0 hole right away. The Patriots went 83 yards – one of four touchdown drives of at least that distance – on 15 plays, culminating with Jones’s first of two touchdown passes to Hunter Henry. The Patriots had five plays of at least 10 yards on the drive, with three third-down conversions. Jones hit all six of his passes. What an emphatic answer.

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But the most impressive drive was the one that put them up 21-7 in the second quarter. The Patriots ran on their first five plays from scrimmage . . . then Jones took over with the best stretch of his career so far, hitting Jakobi Meyers with a gorgeous 26-yard pass for an over-the-shoulder catch, then following that with a decisive, coverage-splitting 23-yard strike to Kendrick Bourne for a touchdown. The kid QB is really good. So is his team.

Some further thoughts, upon immediate review …

Three players who were worth watching

(Players suggested in Unconventional Preview: J.C. Jackson, D’Ernest Johnson, Denzel Ward)

Kendrick Bourne: Bourne had seven touches Sunday, and he made every one of them count. He had four catches for 98 yards, including his leaping touchdown catch and 48-yarder when Brian Hoyer was doing his Human Victory Cigar routine, and also carried three times for 43 yards, including a key 15-yard run on a reverse on the first series after a holding penalty. Bourne is not a star, but he’s starting to look like a quintessential Patriot. There is a lot of David Patten in his game and his upbeat attitude.

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Rhamondre Stevenson: Don’t you love how hard he runs? There’s no dancing or messing around. He just hits the hole, makes a cut or two, and punishes anyone who dares to attempt to stop him. I’m not saying he’s Mashawn Lynch, because that guy was an original, but let’s just say there are some shades of Beast Mode here. He finished with an even 100 yards and two touchdowns, the first putting the Patriots up 14-7 after Kyle Dugger’s interception, and the second a 2-yard charge that capped an eight-play, 92-yard drive in the third quarter. The Browns were so thoroughly beaten at that point that all they could do was resort to begging for a taunting call after Stevenson scored.

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Kyle Dugger: The second-year safety filled out the stat sheet with a team-high eight tackles, a broken-up pass, and his 37-yard return of an interception to set up the go-ahead touchdown. But really, this isn’t about any single player’s performance; this was a complete defensive effort from the Patriots. The most impressive — and ferocious — stretch occurred near the two-minute mark in the third quarter, when in a three-play sequence, Mayfield was knocked from the game on a Matthew Judon hit, Judon and Dont’a Hightower sacked Case Keenum, then on fourth and 19, Kyle Van Noy sacked him to force the change of possession.

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Grievance of the game

There are no complaints whatsoever to be taken from this game. But if we consider the performances of rookies Jones, Stevenson, and Christian Barmore, not to mention superb performances from free agent pickups Henry, Judon, and Bourne, I think we can safely silence the silly-in-the-first-place notion that Belichick the talent evaluator hurts Belichick the coach. This team isn’t just reloaded. It’s rebuilt for the long haul.

Matchup

Patriots tackle Isaiah Wynn versus Browns defensive end Myles Garrett

Perhaps the most important development for the Patriots during this four-game winning streak is the steady improvement of the offensive line. But the work they did in neutralizing Garrett, the most imposing defensive player in the AFC, with their scheme was downright remarkable. Garrett did pick up a sack when Wynn whiffed on a cut block in the first period, but it was his lone tackle of the game. And the Patriots used his aggressiveness against him. On the next play after the sack, for instance, Jones found Brandon Boldin for a 20-yard gain in the area Garrett vacated. Wynn picked up a ticky-tack hands-to-the-face penalty later in the game, but overall, this was his — and the line’s — best performance of the season, with Jones absorbing two sacks and just two QB hits.

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Three notes scribbled in the margins

(Predicted final score: Patriots 24, Browns 19)

(Final score: Patriots 45, Browns 7)

Pretty great to see how happy Jakobi Meyers’s teammates were for him when he finally caught his first career touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. I think every Patriots offensive player, possibly up to and including Horace Ivory and Vagas Ferguson, raced to the end zone to greet him . . . Browns tight end David Njoku had a brutal day, dropping a touchdown pass and then power-dribbling another easy catch later in the game. It was like watching someone attempt to reenact the worst game of Benjamin Watson’s career . . . Mayfield threw for 26 yards in the first half on 14 attempts, a 1.8 yards per attempt average. If he’d done that at home, the Browns might have had him evicted from the stadium.

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