After being shutout at home for the first time since 1993 last week, the New England Patriots bounced back to crush the Cleveland Browns 33-13 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. Tom Brady, coming off a four-game suspension, propelled the team to an early lead, while the defense smothered the multiple Browns quarterbacks that saw playing time. The game was hardly ever in doubt. Here are three takeaways from today’s action.
New England Patriots Week Five Takeaways
Tom Brady’s Return
Tom Brady may be many things, but rusty is not one of them.
In his first game of the 2016 season, following his four-game suspension for his alleged role in Deflategate, Brady looked to be in mid-season form. The former Michigan Wolverine threw for 406 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He connected with seven different receivers, including tight end Rob Gronkowski, who saw his first meaningful action of the season. Gronkowski’s counterpart, tight end Martellus Bennett, caught three touchdowns on the day, and added to his team-leading 314 receiving yards.
Brady’s solid play reassured fans after the Patriots suffered a lopsided 16-0 loss at home to the Buffalo Bills in Week four. Quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett played well enough to be 3-1 after four weeks, but both were hurt against Buffalo. Brissett got the start, but threw for a quiet 203 yards. Brady was consistent and careful, making just a handful of questionable throws. He controlled the offensive and allowed it to flow, and he looked sharp.
Cleveland Quarterback Carousel Continues
This season, Cody Kessler became the 26th starting quarterback for the Browns since 1999, the most of any NFL team in that span. Kessler was the first of three Cleveland quarterbacks to see the field on Sunday.
Kessler was injured after taking a big hit from linebacker Dont’a Hightower. The play resulted in a safety and Kessler did not return. Quarterback-turned-reciever Terrelle Pryor took several snaps before journeyman quarterback Charlie Whitehurst took over. Whitehurst, an 11-year veteran, led the Browns on a touchdown drive before suffering an ugly leg injury towards the end of the game. For Cleveland fans, the quarterback situation has become nothing short of a sick joke.
No matter who was under center, the Browns could do little in the passing game. The three quarterbacks threw 35 combined passes, with an average of 6.4 yards per completion. On a rare off day for their running game, the Browns did minimal damage aside from two touchdown drives. Running back Isaiah Crowell, who led the league coming into Week five with 6.5 yards per carry, was held to just 22 yards on 13 rushes.
Cyrus Jones Ejected
Hopes were high coming into the 2016 season for rookie cornerback Cyrus Jones, a second-round pick from the University of Alabama. Five weeks in, he is moving in the wrong direction, especially after being ejected from Sunday’s game.
Before the 2016 NFL Draft Jones was valued for both his play on defense and kick return ability. He won the kick return job for New England early in training camp, and had a few nice punt returns in the preseason. Jones also solidified himself as the third cornerback behind Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan. But his past two performances have put both of those positions in question.
Last week against Buffalo, Jones’ first two kick returns were stuffed inside the 15-yard line. Both returns were poor choices on his part. Jones fielded each kick in the end zone, but did not kneel on either of them. Special teams captain Matthew Slater could be seen yelling at the rookie, and Jones did not return a kick for the remainder of the game.
In the third quarter of Sunday’s game, Jones took exception to a late block from a Cleveland receiver. He threw two punches in the player’s direction, prompting a swift ejection motion from the closest referee. The Patriots hardly tolerate silly mistakes, especially unnecessary roughness penalties. Jones’ status for next week’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals could be up in the air because of the mistakes he has made.