Patriots

Odell Beckham Jr. has high praise for Patriots after Browns' Week 8 loss

Odell Beckham Jr. has high praise for Patriots after Browns' Week 8 loss

FOXBORO, Mass. -- The Cleveland Browns played one of the worst first quarters you'll ever see in Sunday's 27-13 loss to the New England Patriots.

The Browns were shutout 17-0 and committed three turnovers in the opening 15 minutes. Despite all of that, Cleveland still had a chance to trim New England's lead to just a field goal by halftime.

Baker Mayfield and the Browns offense got the ball back on their own 16-yard line with 2:19 remaining in the first half. A well-executed two-minute drill could have resulted in a 17-14 halftime deficit and perhaps a much different outcome overall.

Cleveland picked up two first downs to begin the drive, then it gave up a sack and committed a false start penalty. The Browns never made it past their own 30-yard line and trailed 17-7 at the half.

"I mean, we're going up against a team that's statistically up there with the Chicago Bears, and all these other teams," Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. "It's not like we look into that, but this is a real defense. This is a very, very good team. ..."

The Browns continued to shoot themselves in the foot throughout the game. In addition to the three turnovers, Cleveland also committed 13 penalties and went 3-for-12 on third down. Beckham couldn't resist praising the Patriots after they capitalized on many of the Browns' mistakes.

"Not to give anybody too much praise, but we did just play the Patriots," Beckham admitted. "They haven't lost a game yet. This is a team that plays perfect, a team that doesn't beat themselves, a team that has few penalties, a team that's given up one passing touchdown. You know what I mean?"

Beckham didn't play poorly Sunday. He was targeted seven times and tallied five receptions for 52 yards. Given his elite skill set, the Browns should have targeted the veteran wideout more often, even if he was going up against the best cornerback in the league in Stephon Gilmore.

“I think (Gilmore is) great," Beckham said. "I think he’s All-Pro. I think he’s everything. But I just felt like we didn’t challenge as much as we could've. I think we kind of shied away from it. I was expecting and looking forward to it, but that wasn’t the case today. We had a couple plays, but for whatever reason we didn’t do as much challenging as the matchups that we all talked about, and all that. Other than that, whatever came my way, I pretty much caught. Whatever other opportunities I had, I made the most of them. But you can only control what you can control.”

The Browns' record now stands at 2-6 after this loss to the Patriots. The good news for Cleveland is the toughest part of its schedule is over, but the margin for error is about as thin as you can possibly get entering Week 9.

Baker Mayfield reacts to costly interception vs. Patriots>>>

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Report: With Folk back at kicker, Patriots release DT Huggins

Report: With Folk back at kicker, Patriots release DT Huggins

Albert Huggins' stay in New England, which he chronicled on Instagram earlier this week, will apparently be a short one.

Maybe.

To make room on the roster after the re-signing of kicker Nick Folk, Huggins, the defensive tackle claimed off waivers earlier this week from the Philadelphia Eagles was released, according to Field Yates of ESPN.

However, Mike Reiss of ESPN reports that there may be a practice-squad spot available for Huggins, so perhaps his Instagram video wasn't for naught. 

Folk is one of four kickers the Patriots have employed this season, three of them after the season-ending injury to Stephen Gostkowski. Folk was released after having an emergency appendectomy that kept him out of the game last week in Houston. Kai Forbath was signed, becoming kicker No. 4 in 2019, then released after that game.

Folk worked out Friday and was deemed healthy enough to return. He's 7-for-9 on field-goal attempts and 3-for-3 on extra points in three games for New England. 

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If Patriots just did this, the offense would see a big improvement

If Patriots just did this, the offense would see a big improvement

Every week during the NFL season, Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry will go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related topic. This week: Call me crazy, but if the Patriots would just do THIS offensively, they’d see a big improvement. 

Bang it to the tight ends. So far this season, the Patriots have 26 catches for 349 yards and a touchdown from Benjamin Watson, Matt Lacosse, Ryan Izzo and Eric Tomlinson. The 27 catches have come on 38 total targets. Tomlinson’s long gone and Izzo hasn’t played since Week 6 against the Giants. Lacosse, meanwhile, has missed five games. The 38-year-old Watson has been targeted twice in the past two games but has pulled in 12 of the 17 passes sent his way in the past six weeks. Last season, a dinged-up Rob Gronkowski caught 26 passes for 304 yards by himself and that came on 43 targets. It’s astounding that an offense that’s been as reliant on the tight end as the Patriots has only directed 38 passes to the position through 12 games. Even in 2016, when Gronk missed a big chunk of the year, the team was still able to get 55 catches and 701 yards from Martellus Bennett. I have a feeling the Josh McDaniels has noticed the absence of the tight end in their offense. I’m also sure that part of the reason it hasn’t been anything more than an afterthought is A) they’ve had a revolving door there with Lacosse injured and Watson suspended for the early part of the year; B) they’ve had woeful pass protection especially on the left while Isaiah Wynn was out and needed to keep a tight end in at times and C) they don’t have dynamic players at the spot. But last week, the Patriots got a much-missed seam pass to Lacosse for 23 yards and a 32-yard catch-and-run from Watson. Could that be a motivator to get the ball out there a little more often? Couldn’t hurt.

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I'm not sure there's anything they can do right now to see a BIG improvement. But there are improvements there to be made, no doubt. I'd focus on the red zone because that's the area of the field where there's the most obvious potential for growth for the Patriots. There really is no reason for the Patriots not to be at least a little more effective at scoring touchdowns when they get inside the 20. They're currently 24th in the NFL when it comes to red-zone efficiency at 48.89 percent. That's a tick below bad offensive football teams like the Giants (53.12 percent, 22nd), Bears (59.46 percent, 14th), Bills (63.64 percent, 9th) and Dolphins (67.74 percent, 4th). How do they improve? Go big. Go bigger in the passing game. Get those tight ends you mention, Tom, out there and allow them to use their bodies to post up on defenders in an area of the field where space is tight. Use N'Keal Harry, even if it's only as a specialty player in there, because he knows how to make a back-shoulder catch. Maybe give Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers a breather when you're in there. And go big in the running game deep in opponent territory. Multiple tight ends. Maybe an extra offensive lineman at times. Since Isaiah Wynn's return, and since LaCosse has been healthy enough to be a factor as a blocker, the run game has improved. Especially out of two-tight end sets. In the last two weeks, they've run for 4.2 yards per carry out of 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends). That number was 3.4 yards per carry in Weeks 2-11 without Wynn. They picked up 3.3 yards per carry in games without Wynn this year, whereas they've averaged 4.4 yards per carry the past two weeks -- regardless of personnel package. They should be able to run it closer to the goal line with the offensive line and tight end spots healthier. And if they prove they can do that, that'll open up the play-action passing game down there. Poof. Just like that, the red-zone offense will be better and the Patriots will see more points on the scoreboard as a result.

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