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Browns can't sustain fast start in lopsided loss to Patriots

The Browns have plenty to review and correct following a difficult defeat in New England

Kevin Stefanski couldn't review all of the errors that plagued the Browns in their 45-7 loss to the Patriots in one postgame press conference Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

The Browns simply had too many of them. Not much — save for the Browns' first drive of the game that resulted in a touchdown — was smooth for Cleveland on Sunday in New England, where the Browns were dealt several punishing blows early by the Patriots and could never generate any counter punch to sway momentum. The offense lacked the same explosiveness that shined one week ago in Cincinnati, while the defense struggled to find any key stops before the score grew out of hand.

"We got our butts kicked," Stefanski said. "We got outcoached in every phase, outplayed in every phase. It was very disappointing. I'm very disappointed in myself, the players, the coaches. It was not a good outing."

Check out photos of the Browns against the Patriots in Week Ten

The Browns failed to take anything away from a successful opening touchdown drive besides the seven points on the scoreboard. Austin Hooper's toe-tap catch after a 2-yard pass from Baker Mayfield was the lone highlight of the day.

The offense mustered just 133 yards after the first drive, and the pass and run games were completely halted by an aggressive Patriots defense that quickly delivered pressure to Mayfield. Completions were hard to find for Mayfield, even with a clean pocket, due to passing lanes being closed.

Mayfield finished 11-of-21 for a season-low 73 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His quarterback rating was 56.2, also his lowest of the season. 

"It got out of hand pretty quickly," Mayfield said. "They had a good scheme. But I think there were plays for us to make there. I think it's a little bit of execution."

Mayfield was relieved by Case Keenum in the third quarter after taking a hard hit from Matthew Judon that injured his knee. He was tended by trainers on the field and in the injury tent before returning to the sideline and designated as "questionable" to return, but he didn't return to the game — a result of both the score and Stefanski protecting his quarterback from further injury.

"He could have gone back," Stefanski said. "It was my choice not to put him back in. I just didn't feel it was the right thing to do."

The defense, meanwhile, allowed New England to score touchdowns on their first three drives of the game, the third of which was a 99-yard drive where the Patriots only needed 11 plays to score. The Patriots scored a touchdown on six of their nine offensive drives, and they were all made possible by the defense struggling on third downs. Cleveland allowed New England to convert on seven of nine third-down plays.

Most of the damage was done by two rookies. QB Mac Jones, a first-round pick, and RB Rhamondre Stevenson, a fourth-round pick, combined for five touchdowns and 302 of New England's 452 total offensive yards.

The Browns said the Patriots didn't do anything that caught them off guard. They just didn't execute.

"I couldn't recall our playmakers making any plays," safety John Johnson III said. "I think they did a good job of looking back at our season when we had trouble with attacking. They had a lot of screens and reverses we kept getting hit on. 

"I don't think it was anything by surprise. We just weren't on our game today."

The biggest surprise for everyone in the locker room, of course, was the score. The Browns entered Sunday knowing they couldn't afford to lose against another AFC opponent in such a tight playoff race — 12 teams in the conference currently have five or more wins. Cleveland has one of the most difficult remaining schedules in the league, too, and has just one opponent with a record below .500 left to play this season.

They'll see that opponent, the Lions (0-8-1), next week at FirstEnergy Stadium. But before the Browns prepare to play a team that has yet to win a game this season, they must first review the film from a game that appeared to feature more errors than any of their other four losses this season. 

"We have to, as coaches, look at it hard and find a way to give our guys a chance to execute and go and execute," Stefanski said. "It was bad football."

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