The New England Patriots will be on the road for the fourth time in the first six weeks of the season when they travel to Cleveland to face the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. With a victory on Sunday, the Patriots can climb back to a .500 record after a 1-3 start to the year. Last week, the Patriots earned a 29-0 victory over the Detroit Lions, who entered the game with the top-ranked offense and a unit that was averaging 35 points a game. For the second straight week, the Patriots will face a top ranked offense, with Cleveland entering the game ranked 4th on offense with 396.4 yards per game and 6th with 26.6 points per game.
The Patriots and Browns will meet for the 27th time overall, including one postseason meeting, when the clubs square off on Sunday.
The teams will be playing against each other for the second straight season. Last season, the Patriots hosted Cleveland and prevailed, 45-7, on Nov. 14, 2021. The Patriots will play at Cleveland for the first time since a 33-13 win on Oct. 9 2016.
The overall series is tied, 13-13, but the Patriots lead the series in regular season games, 13-12. Cleveland won the only postseason meeting when the Bill Belichick-led Browns claimed a 20-13 victory over the Patriots on New Year's Day, 1995, in a Wild Card Playoff game at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium.
The Patriots are 8-5 all-time against the Browns in games played in New England, including 5-0 at Gillette Stadium. However, the Patriots are 5-7 all-time in the regular season at Cleveland. The Patriots are 2-5 at Cleveland Stadium and 3-2 at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Overall Record: 13-13
- Record in New England: 8-5
- Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium: 3-5
- Gillette Stadium: 5-0
Record in Cleveland: 5-8
- Cleveland Municipal Stadium: 2-6
- Cleveland Browns/FirstEnergy Stadium: 3-2
Bill Belichick vs. Cleveland: 8-2
BELICHICK IN CLEVELAND
Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns for five seasons from 1991-95. Belichick took over with the Browns coming off of what was their worst season in franchise history, a 3-13 campaign in 1990. By 1994, Belichick had coached the Browns to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. The Browns' 11 victories in 1994 are tied for the second highest single-season win total in the history of the franchise, and their playoff victory over the Patriots in the wild card round that season stands as the franchise's most recent playoff win. In 1994, the Browns allowed just 204 points – the fewest points allowed in the NFL that season and the fewest points allowed by a defense coached by Belichick.
SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS
By Paul Perillo
When the Patriots run - Edge: Patriots
The physical nature of the Patriots offense has been impressive to watch, particularly when Rhamondre Stevenson is involved. Stevenson rumbled for a career-high 161 yards on the ground against the beleaguered Detroit defense on Sunday, and now he gets to face a Browns unit that isn't much better when it comes to stopping the run. Cleveland enters the game allowing 138.2 yards per game on the ground (28th in the league) and 5.3 yards per carry, which ranks 30th. Stevenson got the full load against the Lions after Damien Harris was limited to four carries due to a hamstring issue. He figures to get the bulk of the work again with Harris likely limited as he works his way back. The offensive line punished the Lions, opening plenty of holes throughout the day as New England averaged a healthy 5 yards per carry on 35 attempts. The Browns have struggled for much of the season, especially after linebacker Anthony Walker was lost for the season due to a leg injury suffered in their Thursday night win over the Steelers in Week 3. The Browns made a deal with Atlanta over the weekend to bring in former Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones, who is dealing with a shoulder injury. Regardless of personnel, the Browns have struggled to stop the run and the Patriots should continue to enjoy success.
When the Patriots pass - Edge: Browns
Bailey Zappe enjoyed a solid if unspectacular afternoon in his first career start against Detroit. He moved effectively around the pocket, patiently found open receivers and delivered accurate passes throughout the day to keep the chains moving. Zappe had some struggles in the red zone, and he might find the Browns secondary a bit more challenging than the toothless Lions defense. Corners Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome join safeties Grant Delpit, John Johnson and Ronnie Harrison to form a solid group. Cleveland allows 215.6 yards per game through the air, which ranks 14th in the league. They haven't been able to come away with many turnovers, however, with just two picks through five weeks. The Browns pass rush hasn't gotten into gear as of yet either, but with Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney on the ends the potential for an uptick exists. Garrett leads the team with three sacks in four games after missing one following a car crash. Zappe was happy (sorry) to have Jakobi Meyers back in the fold against Detroit as the steady wideout led the way with seven catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. He also welcomed Tyquan Thornton into the mix after the rookie spent the first four weeks on injured reserve thanks to a broken collarbone. That gives the Patriots a full complement of weapons to choose from, whether Mac Jones is able to return from his ankle injury or Zappe is forced to make a second start.
When the Browns run - Edge: Browns
As impressive as the Patriots running game has been, Cleveland's is on another level. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt form a potent pair and together they've helped the Browns lead the league in rushing, averaging 192.4 yards per game. Chubb gets the bulk of the work and averages 6.1 yards per carry with 593 yards and seven touchdowns. Hunt is an excellent complement, averaging 4.3 yards per rush and adding a pair of scores. As a team the Browns average 5.3 yards on 180 carries, so it's no surprise what Kevin Stefanski will be trying to do on Sunday. The Patriots have been inconsistent stopping the run in 2022, ranking 22nd in the league allowing 128.8 yards per game and 23rd with an average of 4.8 yards per carry. Those numbers won't do against a Cleveland team that likes to run behind a physical front that features center Ethan Pocic, guards Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller and tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills. Davon Godchaux, Carl Davis and Deatrich Wise rebounded from a couple of tough games with a stronger effort against Detroit, especially in short-yardage situations. That will need to continue, and it wouldn't hurt to get Lawrence Guy back after the defensive tackle missed the last two games with a shoulder injury. With backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett still running the show, Stefanski leans on Chubb, Hunt and the guys up front to control the tempo, and that will most certainly be the game plan in Cleveland once again on Sunday.
When the Browns pass - Edge: Patriots
Brissett has all the leadership qualities and other intangibles necessary to succeed, but he simply lacks the skills needed to consistently throw the ball effectively and produce. He's completing 64 percent of his passes and has five touchdowns against three interceptions and has only been sacked five times all season. But Brissett hasn't been able to make enough plays to keep the Browns offense on schedule, although he has had his moments. Most of those involve former Raiders and Cowboys wideout Amari Cooper, who leads the Browns with 27 catches for 304 yards and three touchdowns. Jalen Mills and Jack Jones should see plenty of Cooper as Mills continues to deal with a nagging hamstring problem that forced him to miss the Green Bay game and had him in and out of the lineup against Detroit. Tight end David Njoku (24-289-1) also is dangerous, as are both running backs as receivers, especially Hunt. But this isn't a sophisticated passing attack and it's one the Patriots secondary should handle. Jonathan Jones is nursing an ankle injury but played well against Detroit in limited duty. The Patriots pass rush, led by Matthew Judon's six sacks, has been outstanding thus far with 13 sacks. Brissett isn't the most mobile quarterback but he will move around the pocket to buy some time. Brissett usually manages the game well and Cleveland wants to run the ball, so containing this limited passing attack, which ranks 24th in the league at 204 yards per game, shouldn't be a problem.
Special Teams - Edge: Patriots
New England is still experiencing some hiccups in the kicking game but none of them involve Nick Folk. The veteran continues to be a sure thing after making all five field goals and both PATs in the win over Detroit. He's now 9-for-10 on field goals this season and has made 63 straight from inside 50 yards. His consistency has been huge for an offense that has struggled in the red zone and playing with a third-string quarterback. On the negative side, the kickoff coverage suffered another lapse on Sunday, allowing a 47-yard return in the second quarter. The Patriots also picked up another personal foul penalty while returning a punt. Cleveland has dealt with issues of its own in the coverage department, allowing a 14-yard average on four punt returns. Fortunately for Cleveland, punter Corey Bojorquez has limited those opportunities thanks to some quality directional kicking and by placing nine of his 17 attempts inside the 20 against just two touchbacks. Marcus Jones gave the team a lift in the return game in Green Bay but didn't get many chances against Detroit. Still, he remains dangerous in that department. Cleveland's Cade York is 8-for-10 on field goals with both misses coming on Sunday against the Chargers, including a potential game-winner from 54 yards.
TALE OF THE TAPE
|2022 REGULAR SEASON||NEW ENGLAND||CLEVELAND|
|Divisional Standings||4th||2nd (T)|
|Total Yards Gained||1,729||1,982|
|Total Offense (Rank)||345.8 (17)||396.4 (4)|
|Rush Offense||138.0 (9)||192.4 (1)|
|Pass Offense||207.8 (21T)||204.0 (24)|
|Points Per Game||20.6 (19T)||26.6 (6)|
|Total Touchdowns Scored||11||16|
|Total Yards Allowed||1,699||1,769|
|Total Defense (Rank)||339.8 (15)||353.8 (19)|
|Rush Defense||128.8 (22)||138.2 (28)|
|Pass Defense||211.0 (11)||215.6 (14T)|
|Points Allowed/Game||19.6 (12)||25.0 (23T)|
|Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost||9/71||5/40|
|Takeaway/Giveaway Ratio||-2 (23T)||0 (17T)|
- Corey Bojorquez (Patriots: Player P 2018^, Browns: Player P 2022)
- Jacoby Brissett (Patriots: Player QB 2016, Browns: Player QB 2022)
- Hjalte Froholdt (Patriots: Player G 2019-20, Browns: Player G 2022)
- Charley Hughlett (Patriots: Player LS 2014^, Browns: Player LS 2014-)
- Chad O'Shea (Patriots: WR Coach 2009-18, Browns: Pass Game Coord/WR 2020-)
^ - Preseason/Practice Squad Only
- Carl Davis Jr. (Patriots: Player DL 2020-, Browns: Player DL 2018)
- Daniel Ekuale (Patriots: Player DL 2021-, Browns: Player DL 2018-19)
- Brian Hoyer (Patriots: Player QB 2020-, Browns: Player QB 2013-14)
- Jabrill Peppers (Patriots: Player 2022, Browns: )
- Mack Wilson Sr. (Patriots: , Browns: Player DB 2017-18)
- Bill Belichick (Patriots: Head Coach 2000-, Browns: Head Coach 1991-95)
- Billy Yates (Patriots: Asst. OL Billy Yates 2021, Browns: Player OL 2009-10)
WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK
- The Patriots have averaged 5-yards per carry in each of the last three games with a 5.2-yard average vs. Baltimore (9/25), 5.1-yard average at Green Bay (10/2) and a 5.0-yard average vs. Detroit (10/9). The Patriots will be looking to average 5-yards per carry in a fourth straight game for the first time in team history. The Patriots have had three 3-game stretches averaging 5-yards per carry in team history (1977, 2020 and 2022).
- Last week, the Patriots won with a 29-0 shutout victory over the Detroit Lions. The team last achieved back-to-back shutout wins in 1982, with a 3-0 win vs. Miami on Dec. 12 followed by a 16-0 win at Seattle on Dec. 19.
- The Patriots did not allow a sack by Detroit last week. It was the second game this year that the Patriots offense did not allow a sack. The Patriots offensive line also did not allow a sack in the win at Pittsburgh. The last time the Patriots offensive line went back-to-back games without allowing a sack was in 2018 – Nov. 25 at the New York Jets and Dec. 2 vs. Minnesota.
- A win this week against Cleveland will give Bill Belichick his 324th win overall to tie George Halas for second place all-time among all NFL coaches, behind the 347 victories by Don Shula.
- Belichick enters this week with 256 regular season wins as a head coach of New England. With a win this week against Cleveland, he will tie Don Shula (Miami) for the second-most regular season wins with one team at 257 wins. George Halas is in first with 318 regular season wins as head coach of the Chicago Bears.
- Matthew Judon is the only NFL player with at least one sack in each game of the 2022 season and enters this week tied for the NFL lead with Nick Bosa (San Francisco) and Micah Parsons (Dallas) with 6 total sacks. He needs a sack this week at Cleveland to set the New England record for most sacks in the first six games of the season. Judon (2021), Chandler Jones (2015) and Andre Tippett (1984) hold the record with 6 ½ sacks in the first six games to start a season for the Patriots. The NFL record for most consecutive sacks to start a season is 8 by Robert Mathis (205), Dwight Freeney (2009) and Everson Griffen (2017).
- Judon is the first Patriots player to record a sack in each of the first five games to start a season. The last NFL player to record a sack in each of the first six games of the season was LB Clay Matthews of the Los Angeles Rams in 2019.
- Judon had his 9th career game with at least two sacks last week at Detroit. DL Trey Flowers was the last Patriots player with back-to-back games with two sacks in 2016 - at Buffalo (10/30) and vs. Seattle (11/13).
- K Nick Folk extended his NFL record to 63 straight field goals made under 50 yards with a 5 field goals made against the Lions last week. Folk's last miss from inside the 50-yard line was a 45-yard field goal attempt in the 2020 season-opener vs. Miami on Sept. 13.
- RB Rhamondre Stevenson had a career-high 161 yards rushing vs. Detroit. The last Patriots player with back-to-back rushing games with at least 140 yards rushing was RB Curtis Martin with 166 yards at the New York Jets on Nov. 5, 1995 followed by 142 yards rushing at Miami on Nov. 12, 1995.
- Stevenson has averaged 6.0 yards per carry in two games so far in 2022 with a 6.1 average (12-73) vs. Baltimore (9/25) and a 6.4 average (25-161) vs. Detroit (10/9). The last New England player with back-to-back weeks averaging over 6 yards per carry was Sony Michel in 2020 when he averaged 7.4-yards per carry at Miami (12/20/20 – 10-74) followed by a 6.9-yard average vs. Buffalo (12/28/20 – 10-69). The last Patriots player to have three games averaging 6 yards per carry in a single season was Dion Lewis in 2017. The most games in a season for the Patriots with a 6.0-yard average is RB Carl Garrett with four games in 1969.
- DB Devin McCourty is one of three active players with at least 30 interceptions. He has 31 career picks and needs one more to tie Baltimore's Marcus Peters for the most interceptions among all active players with 32 picks. McCourty, Peters and Harrison Smith (Minnesota) are the only active players with at least 30 interceptions.
- McCourty reached 193 regular season games played in team history and is now in 7th place all-time. McCourty will move into a tie with Mosi Tatupu for 6th place with a game this week against Cleveland. McCourty has started in every game that he has played.
- Deatrich Wise Jr. has 4 sacks so far in 2022. He needs one more sack to tie his career high of 5 sacks set as a rookie in 2017.
- Rookie DB Jack Jones has had an interception in each of the last two games. He can become the first New England rookie with a pick in three straight games since Devin McCourty had an interception in three straight games as a rookie in 2010. The only other New England rookies with an interception in at least three straight games were Mike Haynes with four straight games in 1976 and Ty Law with three straight in 1995. The Last Patriots player with an interception in at least three straight games was J.C. Jackson with five straight games in 2020.
- WR Jakobi Meyers has scored on three two-point plays and needs one more two-point score to tie Julian Edelman and Gino Cappelletti with four for the most in team history.
- Meyers had his third career 100-yard receiving game vs. Detroit with 7 receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown. He will look to become the first New England player since Julian Edelman in 2019 to have back-to-back games with 100 yards receiving. Edelman had 110 yards at Washington (10/6) followed by 113 yards vs. the New York Giants (10/10).
- Matthew Slater has played in 211 career games and will tie Bruce Armstrong for the second-most games played all-time with New England this week against Cleveland, behind the 285 games played in a New England uniform by Tom Brady.
TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Kevin Harlan will handle play-by-play duties with Trent Green as the color analyst. Melanie Collins will provide analysis from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Ken Mack and directed by Jim Cornell.
LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 33 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.