The New England Patriots are firing on all cylinders.
They earned their most impressive win of the 2021 NFL season on Sunday, beating the Cleveland Browns 45-7 on a cloudy afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
The result extends the Patriots' win streak to four games and improves their position in the NFL playoff picture. They will, at worst, continue to be the third wild card team as the No. 7 seed in the AFC entering Week 11.
The Patriots have a short week coming up as they prepare for a Thursday night matchup with the Atlanta Falcons on the road.
Here are four takeaways from Patriots-Browns.
1) Mac Jones outduels Baker Mayfield
In a battle of first-round draft picks, it was Jones who looked like a franchise QB in Foxboro.
The Patriots rookie quarterback was on fire in the first half, completing 13 of 15 pass attempts for 134 yards with two touchdowns and a 143.5 rating.
Jones' second-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne in double coverage was quite impressive:
He finished with 19 completions on 23 attempts for 198 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Alabama product did not play over the final 8:51 of the game as backup Brian Hoyer came in for garbage time.
Jones' best throw of the day -- and probably his entire season, honestly -- came on this toss to tight end Hunter Henry in the third quarter:
Perhaps the most important aspect of Jones' Week 10 performance was he protected the football. He didn't commit a single turnover. Jones entered Sunday with at least one turnover in five of his last seven games. If he can improve his ball security, the Patriots will be a tough team to beat over the second half of the regular season.
Mayfield had a rough day, to say the least.
He completed 11 of 21 pass attempts for just 71 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Mayfield took a hard hit in the third quarter and was forced to leave the game. He did not return, although that probably was more score-related than injury related. The Browns were losing 38-7 at the time. Either way, it was a day to forget for the 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick.
2) Rhamondre Stevenson hitting his stride
Stevenson's role increased with starting running back Damien Harris out of action due to a concussion, and the rookie from Oklahoma stepped up with an impressive performance.
The 2021 third-round draft picked ran for a career-high 100 yards (5.0 per carry) and two touchdowns, along with four receptions for 14 yards.
His powerful running style was a problem for the Browns defense all day long.
Stevenson has tallied 100 total yards in back-to-back games. He's also rushed for 5-plus yards per carry in each of the last two weeks.
The rookie running back is starting to hit his stride, and most importantly, he's protecting the football.
3) Recent Pats draft picks shine
The Patriots are getting strong production from their young players during this four-game win streak, including several of their 2020 and 2021 draft picks.
Jones gave his best performance as the Patriots' starting quarterback, but he wasn't the only first- or second-year player to shine.
Here's a quick statistical recap of recent Patriots draft picks who played well against the Browns.
- Mac Jones, QB, 2021 first round: 19-for-23 for 198 yards with 3 TD, 0 INT
- Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, 2021 third round: 20 carries, 100 rushing yards, 2 TD
- Christian Barmore, DL, 2021 second round: Four tackles
- Kyle Dugger, S, 2020 second round: Interception, eight tackles, one pass defensed
Barmore's box score stats don't accurately reflect how well he played Sunday. He was a nuisance for the Browns offensive line throughout the game and put pressure on Mayfield several times. He also got his hand on a Mayfield pass attempt in the second quarter that nearly led to an interception. Barmore has been one of the best defensive rookies all season. It's crazy that he lasted to pick No. 38 in the second round.
Dugger had a strong game in the secondary. His interception in the first quarter helped set up a touchdown that put the Patriots up 14-7 on the ensuing drive.
The interception was Dugger's third of the season, and he also leads the team with 58 tackles.
The Patriots have desperately needed some younger players to step up and emerge as consistent contributors on both sides of the ball, and that's exactly what has happened over the last month-and-a-half.
4) Pats gain important tiebreaker
The Patriots and Browns both entered this game with 5-4 records. Not only did the Pats move ahead of the Browns with this victory, they also earned the crucial head-to-head tiebreaker.
Therefore, if the Patriots and Browns finish the season with identical records, New England would have the advantage because of this tiebreaker.
The Patriots now hold head-to-head tiebreakers over the Browns and Chargers.