FOXBORO -- The Patriots' offense had a hard time moving the football at times Sunday. Their run game was stuck in neutral, continuing a season-long trend. Their pass game had issues finding consistency with a new wide receiver in the mix and a backup right guard starting.
But on a third-and-10 play early in the third quarter, the Patriots' offense found a spark. Or was it that the Browns defense took a sedative? Either way, James White's 59-yard screen catch-and-run was this game's turning point.
You could argue that Jonathan Jones' hustle sprint-and-strip of Nick Chubb was the game-changer. Or that Lawrence Guy's interception of Baker Mayfield's shovel pass was what definitively turned the tides.
🏈 PATRIOTS 27, BROWNS 13
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Yet before the first Patriots drive of the third quarter, the Browns trailed their hosts by only a touchdown, 17-10. That subsequent drive started with Tom Brady throwing incomplete under pressure and then incomplete again when Mohamed Sanu's hand was pinned down by a Browns corner as the ball approached.
On third down the Patriots went with their 10 personnel package. They turned to that four-receiver, one-back set quite a bit against Cleveland despite the fact that the Browns were actually better against "sub" offensive packages coming into the game than they were two-tight end or two-back sets.
Wouldn’t be surprising to see the Patriots open the game today as they did against Jets, with a lot of two-TE snaps.— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) October 27, 2019
Browns allow 10.9 yards per pass attempt and 5.2 yards per carry against 12 personnel this year. Those numbers are 7.9 YPA/6.3 YPC in their last three games.
Perhaps the Patriots — going into the game with no true fullback and without their two top tight ends — felt as though the spread-it-out offense would have a better shot of helping them move the football. Certainly in a third-and-10 situation like the one they faced early in the third quarter, having more receivers on the field made sense.
🏈 PATRIOTS 27, BROWNS 13
But it wasn't a receiver who came through with the big play in that spot. It was White. The Browns forgot about White leaking out to the right side of the offensive formation and he had almost half the field to navigate one he caught Brady's pass in the flat.
One of the team's best runners with the ball in his hands, White decided to reverse the field about halfway through his jaunt in order to out-run the Browns defenders in pursuit. He could've had a hellacious block laid for him by Phillip Dorsett in the open field, but Dorsett made the heady play not to unload on the potential tackler he had sized up. He might've been called for a blindside block moving parallel to his own end line had he made forcible contact with his forearm or shoulder.
That play got the Patriots into Browns territory. They followed up with another successful scree to Rex Burkhead, a Sony Michel third-and-short conversion, and a Brady touchdown pass -- also out of 10 personnel -- to Julian Edelman.
That made the score 24-10 and gave the Patriots some breathing room as one of the best defenses in the history of the league through eight games went back to work against another young quarterback in the middle of a day he'd like to forget.
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