Three Studs, Three Duds From Patriots’ Convincing Win Over Browns

The 'Zappe Fever' isn't going anywhere


Oct 16, 2022

CLEVELAND — The Patriots moved back to .500 Sunday afternoon with a 38-15 win over the Browns.

It wasn’t pretty, as self-inflicted errors by the Patriots enabled the Browns to hang around for far too long and Bill Belichick’s team committed a whopping 12 penalties. But a win is a win.

New England got another rock-solid performance from rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe, who completed 24 of 34 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns to go along with a lost fumble. Running back Rhamondre Stevenson added a 31-yard touchdown run and tight end Hunter Henry hauled in four passes for 61 yards and a score. Rookie receiver Tyquan Thornton added touchdowns on the ground and through the air.

On the other side, former Patriot Jacoby Brissett did very little until late against his old team, completing 21 of 45 passes for 266 yards and a TD while throwing two interceptions — one to Kyle Dugger, another to Jalen Mills — and losing a fumble. Star running back Nick Chubb finished with just 56 yards on only 12 carries.

New England went 7-of-13 on third downs while its defense held the Browns to 4-of-15.

The Patriots improved to 3-3 with the victory while the Browns dropped to 2-4 with the loss. New England will host the lowly Chicago Bears in Week 7 for a “Monday Night Football” matchup at Gillette Stadium.

Here are three studs and three duds for the Patriots from their Week 6 victory in Cleveland:

QB Bailey Zappe
Yes, the quality of opposing defenses over the last three weeks must be taken into account, but Zappe deserves full credit for the way he’s played this month. The third-string rookie once again looked poised and played largely mistake-free football. New England also seemed more willing to let Zappe throw it down the field in this game, a sign of its growing confidence in the fourth-round pick. Zappe’s late-game intentional-grounding penalty was an awful mistake, though.

Front seven
The Browns entered the game with arguably the best rushing attack in the NFL, and the Patriots completely bottled it up. Chubb didn’t do much until the fourth quarter, and third-down back Kareem Hunt finished with 12 yards on four carries. The Patriots also were successful in generating pressure against Cleveland’s terrific offensive line and registered four sacks. On the downside, stud defensive tackle Christian Barmore left the game in the first half due to a knee injury and didn’t return.

RB Rhamondre Stevenson
It wasn’t the game that many expected from Stevenson, who was going up against the worst run defense in football. But the sophomore back ran hard, played a ton and his 31-yard score was a massive play for the Patriots. Stevenson racked up 76 yards on 19 carries and also caught four passes on five targets for 15 yards. He added a second touchdown run during garbage time.

Honorable mentions: Jalen Mills, Kyle Dugger, Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Matthew Judon, DeVante Parker, Davon Godchaux, Marcus Jones

RT Isaiah Wynn
Wynn committed a false start — his NFL-leading eighth penalty of the season — and gave up a Myles Garrett strip-sack before getting benched in the first half. It was the second time this season the fifth-year right tackle has been replaced by veteran Marcus Cannon. Wynn returned to the field when the Patriots wanted to shift Cannon to jumbo tight end, but his playing time was inconsistent. It’s fair to wonder whether he’ll start in Week 7 when New England hosts Chicago.

Interior offensive line
New England got flagged for one delay-of-game penalty and got close to picking up a few others. In general, the communication between Zappe and the O-line seemed a bit shaky, and center David Andrews must take some of the blame. The Patriots’ interior line also struggled in goal-line situations against an undersized Cleveland front seven. The group wasn’t terrible, but it was a step down from an excellent performance last week against the Detroit Lions.

The Patriots committed a season-high 12 penalties, eight of which came in the first half. Ultimately, that falls on the coaching.

Honorable mentions: Special teams as a whole

Thumbnail photo via Scott Galvin/USA TODAY Sports Images
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