Patriots Week 10 Notebook: Rookies Growing, Defense Dominating, And an Identity Forming

The Patriots routed the Browns, 45-7, Sunday afternoon. With that, the AFC playoff race continues to tighten week-by-week in the NFL. One week, a team can look dominant, the next, they play down to their opponent. Eight AFC teams have 5 wins, the Patriots are now one of four teams, to have 6 or more.

New England rises up to sixth place in the AFC as the Cleveland Browns fall down to 11th, evident to how crucial this Week 10 matchup was. The Patriots are growing more confident and dominant as the weeks go by.

The Patriots have won four games straight, averaging 37.5 points over that span. It feels as though Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have found the Patriots identity. The secondary and pass rush continue to create turnovers and pressure. The offensive line has stabilized well, leading towards a strong running game and the Patriots are finishing their red-zone drives in touchdowns. Here’s how the Patriots put that on display vs the Browns.

What Went Right? 

Mac Jones

By far this was Jones’ best game as a rookie. After back-to-back weeks with less than two touchdowns and a completion percentage under 70%, Jones did what he does best: respond. The rookie moved confidently in the pocket and dominated on third down. Here’s how Mac did on third down:

  • 6-for-7
  • 80 yards
  • 1 Touchdown
  • 158.3 passer rating (perfect)

Against one of the league’s best defense, Mac Jones delivered. Completing 82.6% of his passes with 3 touchdowns and several beautiful throws. Whether it’s hitting Jakobi Meyers over the shoulder on the sideline, Hunter Henry in the corner of the end-zone, or the play of the game to a double covered Kendrick Bourne, Jones elevated the Patriots offense.

Kendrick Bourne

Bourne gave the Patriots offense new versatility with over 140 yards from scrimmage. Not only was Bourne impactful through the air, 98 yards and a touchdown, he ran for 43 yards on the ground. Perhaps Bourne’s rushing ability will be utilized moving forward. It’s evident Josh McDaniels has learned a lot about his new offense.

Rhamondre Stevenson

Stevenson was held out of practice all week, having to clear the concussion protocol. Thankfully, the rookie cleared the protocol and had himself a career day with over 100 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. The rookie continues to run smoothly with size, not a fun combination for defenders wishing to make a tackle.

Secondary and Pass Rush

7 points allowed given up on the first drive. From that point on, it was complete domination. Five sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception. The corner’s shut down Cleveland’s passing attack: Cleveland’s leading receiver not named D’Ernest Johnson recorded 26 yards. Cleveland threw for 154 yards while Judon, Van Noy, and Hightower all recorded at least .5 of a sack.

What Went Wrong? 

Run Defense

The Patriots run defense had looked strong as of late, not this week however. Giving up five yards per carry and nearly 100 yards rushing, Cleveland got whatever they wanted on the ground. Thankfully for the Patriots, the game was not close enough for the Browns to run the football more.

The Patriots are rolling and the team is starting to look like a serious contender. However, the AFC race is too close to start feeling good about yourself. New England cannot afford to play down to their opponent on a short week and lay an egg vs. Atlanta. Every week is vital for New England’s playoff hopes.

The Patriots play the Atlanta Falcons this Thursday at 8:20pm.

AP Photo by Michael Dwyer

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