FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts -- The Browns lost their third straight game Sunday, falling 27-13 to the undefeated New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
New England pounced on the Browns early with a trio of takeaways, and it ultimately proved to be too much for the Browns to overcome. Along the way, though, there were additional plays that influenced the outcome of this game. Here are the six plays that changed the game.
1. Dont’a Hightower returns Nick Chubb’s fumble for a touchdown
Trailing 3-0, the Browns went back to work with plenty of potential in front of them. Nick Chubb received his first carry of the game, ran into some traffic in the middle and had the ball kicked out of his arm by teammate Joel Bitonio, who had been upended by a Patriots defender. The ball popped out and was scooped up by linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who raced to the end zone for the game’s first touchdown and a 10-0 Patriots lead.
2. Jonathan Jones punches ball out of Chubb’s arm for second FF
The Browns attempted to respond after the turnover by going back to Chubb, and for 40 yards of his long run, it looked to be the right call. It was, in reality, but New England defensive back Jonathan Jones erased the Browns’ first big play of the night by chasing down Chubb and punching the ball out, forcing the running back’s second fumble of the quarter. The Patriots recovered but didn’t turn the takeaway into points. The impact of this play robbed the Browns of a likely touchdown early in a quarter that ended up being a disaster.
3. Mayfield’s touch pass intercepted by Lawrence Guy
The first period of action was a disaster because of the trio of turnovers, capped by this one, which looks worse on video replay and in GIF form because of its unlikelihood. The Browns sent two plays running toward each other behind the line when the ball was snapped to Mayfield, who attempted a touch pass to Jarvis Landry. Typically, these plays go off without a hitch in the NFL, but defensive tackle Lawrence Guy was busy blowing the play up in the backfield and found himself directly in the path of the tossed ball. Guy intercepted the pass for New England’s third takeaway of the quarter.
Brady found receiver Julian Edelman on the ensuing drive for an 8-yard touchdown pass, and the Patriots had successfully punched the Browns in the mouth, taking a 17-0 first-quarter lead.
Check out photos of the Browns against the Patriots
4. Mayfield to Demetrius Harris for 21-yard touchdown
The Browns trailed 17-0 after one quarter but had plenty of time left to attempt to climb back into the football game. They took their first steps toward such a goal with a six-play, 54-yard scoring drive that saw a well-balanced attack efficiently move the ball down the field. Mayfield completed the drive with a 21-yard toss up to Demetrius Harris, who essentially boxed out the defender nearest to him and came down with the ball for a score.
The touchdown made it 17-7 and provided the game’s first sign of encouragement for Cleveland’s offense, especially with a ton of time remaining.
5. Denzel Ward blocks Mike Nugent’s kick attempt
For the first time in 2019, the Browns deferred to start the game. That meant a stop late in the first half and a quick score could bring them within just one possession of tying at the start of the second half.
While they didn’t accomplish the latter, they did get a stop when it didn’t seem likely. Trailing 17-7, Denzel Ward — playing in his first game in over a month — sprinted around the edge and dove toward fellow Ohio State Buckeye (from a different decade) Mike Nugent, New England’s kicker. Ward blocked the kick, the Browns’ second blocked field goal of 2019, keeping the score at 17-7. It remained as such when halftime arrived.
6. 59-yard screen to James White
This one is the play that made the deficit seem significant. The Browns kicked a field goal to finish their first drive of the second half, making the score 17-10, but New England responded with a seven-play, 84-yard drive that took just 2:26 off the clock.
The reason they were able to strike so quickly is a well-timed third-down screen pass to James White that opened up plenty of space for him to run. A nice cutback made it an even bigger gain, with Browns safety Juston Burris serving as the savior on the play who kept White from scoring.
It didn’t matter, though, as New England eventually scored on Edelman’s second touchdown of the day to make it a 24-10 game. That lead grew to 27-10 and the Browns only got three points closer, losing 27-13.