The New England Patriots won one of the craziest games in recent memory, with two touchdowns in the final two minutes to stun the Cleveland Browns. The Rob Gronkowski injury dims some of the euphoria, however, and Pats Nation holds its breath as it awaits word on Gronk.
Check back out final grades and analysis below.
Cleveland - 26
New England - 27
|Position Unit||1st Half Grade||Final Grade|
Game Analysis for the New England Patriots
Pass Offense: The Rob Gronkowski injury looks like a season-changing event, but Brady actually played extremely well after Gronk’s departure. The Pats relied heavily on short timing patterns to Shane Vereen and his slot receivers to move the ball. That’s probably not a sustainable strategy in the long-term, but it worked well to keep the Pats in the game.
Run Offense: Vereen revived a moribund Pats offense, serving as Brady’s security blanket after Gronk’s injury. The Patriots eased Ridley back in during his return, giving him eight carries on the day. That low number might also stem from Vereen being on the field for most of the snaps as the Pats passed to try and make up the deficit.
Run Defense: The Browns went away from an early run-heavy game plan, putting the ball in Campbell’s (and Josh Gordon’s) hands. A nice rebound effort from this unit, albeit against a Cleveland team that is not particularly strong on the ground in the first place.
Pass Defense: The floodgates burst in the second half, with 40-yard and 80-yard touchdowns by Gary Barnidge and Josh Gordon, respectively, blowing the game open. Gordon was unstoppable in the second half, roasting Talib for 109 yards after halftime. It's disappointing that this unit could not come up with the critical fourth-quarter stop when needed.
Special Teams: The Patriots pulled another rabbit out of their hat with an onside kick that led to Danny Amendola’s game-winning touchdown. Apart from the onside kick, Stephen Gostkowski continued his excellent season with two critical field goals.
Coaching: Give the Patriots credit for not folding even when Gronkowski went off. It will be tough to game-plan around the team’s massive personnel shortages if the All-Pro tight end is gone, but the Pats pushed all the right buttons to pull out a miracle.
First-Half Analysis for the New England Patriots
Pass Offense: Tom Brady’s screams of frustration reflect yet another maddeningly lethargic start from the Patriots offense. The Pats have compiled just 130 yards in the first half, and Brady threw as many completions as interceptions in the first quarter (one). Five dropped passes have not helped the cause, either.
Run Offense: LeGarrette Blount has been fantastic in limited carries, rushing for 36 yards on six carries and breaking numerous tackles. Stevan Ridley returned from his exile in the second quarter, but has not made an impact thus far.
Run Defense: Apart from a breakdown that led to a 21-yard Jason Campbell run, the base defense has been much more fundamentally sound in this area. Dont’a Hightower has been particularly active, with nine tackles already, and Rob Ninkovich made a tremendous tackle for a loss on a 3rd-and-1.
Pass Defense: Aqib Talib has done a fine job shadowing Josh Gordon, holding Cleveland’s star receiver to 42 yards on three catches. Apart from a couple of deep-shot tests, Jason Campbell has mostly checked down and played things safe, refusing to hand the Pats the turnover they need.
Special Teams: Ryan Allen landed three punts inside the 20, demonstrating more steady improvement in directional punting. Overall, an extremely uneventful half for this unit.
Coaching: It might behoove the Pats to sprinkle in a few more run calls. Long down-and-distance situations have dictated some play calls, but New England has had success in limited chances on the ground. Otherwise, it looks like Bill Belichick will once again have to wake up his sleepwalking troops to take care of a team they should beat.