Freddie Kitchens doesn’t need to tell his Cleveland Browns players just how difficult this Sunday’s matchup at Gillette Stadium will be for them.
Their opponent, the New England Patriots, has raced out to a 7-0 record this season while playing some of the best defense the NFL has ever seen. This will be the toughest challenge the Browns have faced in what’s been a disappointing debut season for Kitchens, who has just two wins in six tries in his first year as Cleveland’s head coach.
“I think (the players) have television sets, and guys these days are all on the internet and stuff like that, so they’re well aware,” Kitchens said Wednesday in a conference call with New England reporters. “I’m not going to try to fool them to think we’re going in to play a normal team. We’re not going in to play a normal team. We’re going in to play the New England Patriots.”
The Patriots, winners of two of the last three Super Bowls and each of the last three AFC titles, have outscored opponents by an astounding 175 points through seven games this season. Their defense, overflowing with veteran depth at linebacker and in the secondary, has scored as many touchdowns (three) as it’s allowed, and that’s not counting the two scores that came off blocked punts.
New England has surrendered one touchdown pass and grabbed a league-leading 18 interceptions, equaling its total from the entire 2018 season and doubling up the second-place Carolina Panthers (nine picks). Oh, and the Pats haven’t lost to a first- or second-year quarterback since 2013 and just spent Monday night scaring the daylights out of 2018 No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold (four interceptions, one lost fumble, 3.6 passer rating).
Good luck, Baker Mayfield.
To beat the Patriots, Kitchens said, the Browns will need to play close to mistake-free football. They’ve been unable to do so with any consistency this season, ranking fifth-to-last in the NFL in turnover differential (minus-6).
“They do a good job coaching, they do a good job playing, they do a good job doing their job, and any time that happens, you’re not going to go in, and they’re not going to beat themselves,” Kitchens said. It’s very difficult to play against teams like that, because you know their mistakes are going to be very limited. You have to make sure you don’t beat yourself and make them beat you.”
Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images