The New England Patriots' defense was on the field for over 38 minutes on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, thanks in large part to Peyton Hillis and the Browns' dominant running attack. Hillis carried the ball 29 times, racking up 129 yards and scoring two rushing touchdowns. The Patriot defense did not have an answer to stopping Hillis.
As a result, New England gave up a season-high 34 points and continued to be susceptible to the opponent's ground-attack this season. In 2010, the Patriots' defense is giving up an average of 118 yards per contest.
On the other side of the ball, New England failed to get their own ground-attack in motion. The Patriots average 107 yards per contest on the ground. On Sunday, however, they gained only a total of 68 rushing yards.
To make matters worse, the Patriots didn't get much going through the air either. Going into Sunday's contest in Cleveland, Tom Brady was completing 66 percent of his passes for the season. Brady finished Sunday completing just 52 percent of his passes (19 of 36) with not much help from his receivers, namely rookie Tight End Ron Gronkowski who had several drops and a fumble near the Browns' goal line. It was a rough day for Gronkowski. Tom Brady did finish the contest with two passing touchdowns and 224 yards through the air, good for a QB Rating of 90.5, dismal by Tom Brady standards.
Patriots' running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who came into Cleveland in Week 9 on a hot-streak of six touchdowns in his last five contests, failed to reach the end zone Sunday. He also only managed 14 yards rushing on nine carries. Danny Woodhead did add 54 yards on the ground with as many carries. The Browns' defense was able to keep New England's rushing attack in check.
Overall, it was a disappointing outing for the Patriots. The team came into Cleveland on a 5-game winning streak, and with Cleveland starting a rookie at quarterback (Colt McCoy), it looked as though they could easily extend that streak to six. However, Cleveland had a game plan and stuck to it. They ran the ball all over the Patriots' defense, controlled the game clock and played well enough on defense to come out with a 34-14 victory.
The Patriots now slip into second-place in their division. Both the Patriots and the New York Jets have records of 6-2, with the Jets holding the tie-breaker because they beat the Patriots earlier this season 28-14. The Patriots also fall to .500 on the road this season with a record of 2-2. Up next for New England is a tough road match-up in Pittsburgh against the Steelers on Heinz Field. That game is schedule for 8:20PM ET on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
Patriots' fans need not worry; Sunday appeared to just be a slight bump-in-the-road. New England still looks to be in the running for the AFC East division and to be a contender in the playoffs. When you have number 12 at quarterback and Bill Belicheck on the sidelines, you always give yourself a chance to win. A young Patriot defense has some work to do but will be fine.
Other game notes: Patriot rookie TE Aaron Hernandez caught two Tom Brady touchdown throws. Hernandez continues to be a big-play threat this season and is having a solid rookie campaign.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski left Sunday's game with a quad injury and did return. Wide Receiver Wes Welker stepped in as the back-up kicker (field goals) and did a fair job.