Optimism was high entering the game against the New England Patriots, and for good reason. The team was coming of their best performance of the season, a 41-16 win at Cincinnati. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots came out, and embarrassed the Cleveland Browns handing the team a 45-7 loss. After such an embarrassing loss where it seemed as though the team never got off the plane, there is a lot of soul searching that has to go on in Berea this week. There will most certainly be some tough questions that are coming up about the coaches, players, and overall lack of effort.
Kevin Stefanski was outcoached once again in this game. The league appears to be adjusting to Stefanski’s scheme, and he has shown an unwillingness to adjust or turn play calling duties over to offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. Stefanski was quick to abandon the run yesterday only down 14-7. D’Earnest Johnson torched the New England defense on the opening drive, rushing 4 times for 58 yards getting the team down to the 2 yard line. Stefanski then made a questionable call to have a direct snap go to fullback Johnny Stanton which went for no gain. Why not continue to ride the hot hand?
Stefanski also showed a lack of aggressiveness before the end of the first half. New England was set to receive the 2nd half kickoff, and had the ball with 3:48 remaining in the 2nd QTR. Stefanski had 3 timeouts, and decided to hold onto those instead using them and putting some pressure on New England. On New England’s second drive of the 3rd Quarter, Mac Jones hit Hunter Henry down the left sideline for 19 yards. It appeared the ball may have hit the ground. With the score 24-7 at the time, Stefanski chose not to throw his challenge flag. In his 2nd year, Stefanski appears to be more interested in analytics than making in game adjustments. Will he consider turning play calling duties over to Van Pelt this week?
Baker Mayfield is in his 4th season as QB of the Cleveland Browns. This is his 2nd season in Coach Stefanski’s offense, and the results have been underwhelming. We all know the shortcomings said of Mayfield coming out of Oklahoma. “He is short, and slow”. Toughness has never been an issue, as he is currently playing through a torn labrum and fracture in his left shoulder. Baker was coming off one of his best performances of the season, and just appeared lost from the start in New England. He threw into double coverage most of the day. He had 1 interception on the day, but one could argue it could have been 4 or 5. He is struggling to read the defense pre-snap. At one point during the game he ran Johnson right into a blitzing Patriot, instead of adjusting the play at the line.
Bill Belichick was determined to force Baker Mayfield to try and beat them yesterday. Baker struggled all day going 11/21, 73 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. He left the game in the 3rd quarter with an apparent leg injury. Baker Mayfield had an abysmal rating of 56.3 for the game. Consistency has always been an issue for Baker. The main criticism that remains for Baker in year four is he has not shown he can be the guy to lead his team to victory against other playoff caliber teams. That curse continued in New England. Mayfield needs perfect conditions around him to be successful. The great quarterbacks find a way to win with what they have. Is Baker the guy to pay $40M+ just because he is better than the franchise has had? Seems like a very low standard. The LA Rams gave up on Jared Goff, and the Tennessee Titans gave up on Marcus Mariotta. Should the Browns consider doing the same if an upgrade becomes available in the offseason?
Now it is time to look at the defensive side of the ball. The defense could not get off the field against the Patriots. New England was 7/9 on third downs on the day, compared to the Browns 1/11. Cleveland allowed 7.3 yards per play to the Patriots. The defense played outstanding against Cincinnati, just to show up with a total lack of effort Sunday in New England. After some successful screen plays, Joe Woods dropped Myles Garrett into coverage where he is not the most effective. Woods had the team in a dime formation when New England was pinned at their own 2 yard line….what was that? This defense has been inconsistent. Myles Garrett and John Johnson III among others called out the coaching after the game citing lack of adjustments, and being attacked on plays ran against them early in the season. It is week 10 and the lack of adjustments are unacceptable. The players appear to be turning on Joe Woods, so it finally time for Stefanski to give up on him too?
Overall, the effort against the Patriots on both sides of the ball was atrocious. No one really played well. The questions are just beginning for this team. This Browns were predicted to contend for a Super Bowl this season, and they are now 5-5. With higher expectations come more criticism. Players and coaches need to be held accountable. It is shaping up to be another very interesting week in Berea. How many of these questions will be answered? Only time will tell.
Tune in for reaction on this weeks episode of Den of the DAWGS podcast w/ Kevin McAndrews & Clarence Wilson!