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Brutal start costly in Browns loss at New Engand

By MARY KAY CABOT • Updated Oct 28, 2019 at 1:57 AM

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Cleveland Browns played a tough, hard-nosed football game in the driving rain against the undefeated defending Super Bowl champions.

But the Browns couldn’t overcome three turnovers on three straight plays in the first quarter against the Patriots in a 27-13 loss to fall to 2-5 and give the Patriots an 8-0 mark. The Browns are now a full three games behind the first-place Ravens and have fallen into third place behind the 2-4 Steelers, who play the winless Dolphins on Monday night.

The three giveaways — on two rare Nick Chubb fumbles and a Baker Mayfield interception on a little pitch to Jarvis Landry — dug the Browns a 17-0 first-quarter hole they couldn’t climb out of. They did give the Patriots a big scare, scoring 10 unanswered points to close to within 17-10 midway through the third quarter, but the Patriots stormed back with 10 straight points of their own to put the game out of reach.

The Browns kicked a field goal with 2:33 left to produce the final margin. The Patriots’ victory was the 300th of Bill Belichick’s illustrious career.

The Browns came into the game knowing they couldn’t turn the ball over against this opportunistic team and win. They had watched the Patriots pick off Sam Darnold four times on Monday night in a 33-0 rout, and knew they needed a mistake-free game. The Patriots were first in the NFL with 18 interceptions and first with 22 takeaways heading in.

But the mistakes began early on in the first quarter when Chubb fumbled the ball away on the Browns second drive, and then it was bang, bang, bang — three turnovers on three straight plays — that left the Browns reeling and down 17-0.

The two Chubb fumbles were out of character for a player who began his NFL career with 320 straight carries without losing the ball.

Chubb tried to make up for it by rumbling through the Patriots’ No. 1 defense for 131 yards on 20 carries, but it wasn’t enough. It would’ve been four turnovers, but Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore dropped a fourth-quarter interception.

Gilmore did a masterful job of shutting down Odell Beckham Jr., who caught five passes for 52 yards and no TDs. Landry, who vowed Thursday that the Browns ‘we’re going [there] to win the game,’ was held to five catches for 65 yards.

Mayfield completed 20-of-31 attempts for 194 yards with 1 TD, 1 INT and a 79.2 rating.

Tom Brady completed 20-of-36 attempts for 259 yards and two TDs for a 96.9 rating. He was sacked three times. Reigning Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman caught eight passes for 78 yards and two TDs.

The Browns committed 13 penalties for 85 yards, including numerous false starts and looked sloppy despite the fact they were coming off their bye and had an extra week to prepare.

Trailing 17-7, the Browns had the ball at the start of the second half and opened with a 21-yard pass to Jarvis Landry. Most of the rest of the drive was hard-running by a determined Chubb, who went over 100 yards midway through it. But Mayfield was sacked from the Pats’ 11 for a 9-yard loss by former Browns linebacker Jamie Collins on third down and the Browns settled for a 38-yard Austin Seibert field goal that cut the deficit to 17-10.

It marked 10 unanswered points for the Browns, who looked doomed at the beginning.

But the euphoria was short-lived when Brady hit James White with a short screen pass and he rumbled 59 yards up the left side, with safety Juston Burris making the TD-saving tackle at the Browns’ 25. But four plays later, Brady rolled right away from a charging Myles Garrett and hit Julian Edelman with a 14-yard TD pass that made it 24-10 with 6:11 left I the third.

The tacked on a field goal in the fourth to produce the final margin.

It was remarkable that the Browns trailed only 17-7 at the half considering those three turnovers on three straight plays in the first quarter.

Trailing 3-0 after the Browns held New England to a field goal despite a first and goal at the 7, Chubb coughed up the ball when Joel Bitonio inadvertently kicked it out of his hand. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower recovered and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 advantage with 5:45 left in the first quarter.

First play of the next drive, the normally-surehanded Chubb was stripped again after a 44-yard rumble when Jonathan Jones tomahawked the ball out of his hand. Devin McCourty recovered but was stopped by Mayfield for no gain.

The Patriots started at their 4 and punted seven plays later from their 16.

The Browns took over again at their 21, and Mayfield tried to pitch the ball to Jarvis Landry. But Lawrence Guy read the play perfectly, wedged his way in between Landry and Bitonio and stole the pitch. Two plays later, Brady threw an 8-yard TD over the middle to Julian Edelman to make it 17-0.

It was the 12th TD pass of the season by Brady to set a single-season record for a player age 42 or older. Previous high was 11 by Warren Moon in 1998.

Undaunted, Mayfield came back in the second quarter and found tight end Demetrius Harris single up with Hightower in the left corner of the end for a 21-yard TD that cut the deficit to 17-7. It marked only the second passing touchdown against the Patriots this season.

The Patriots embarked on a long march to try to increase their lead before the half, and were helped along by three defensive penalties. But cornerback Denzel Ward, in his first game back after four games out with a pulled hamstring, dove in and blocked Mike Nugent’s 29-yard field goal attempt with 2:19 left in the half.

Mayfield took over at his 16, but the drive stalled on a sack and a false start.

 

Up next

The Browns play in Denver at 4:25 p.m. next Sunday against the 2-6 Broncos.

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