FOXBOROUGH — Instant analysis from the Patriots’ 27-13 win over the Browns:
■ The trade deadline comes Tuesday at 4 p.m., and everyone seems to be looking for the Patriots to add another receiver or tight end. But if the Patriots do make a move, it should be for offensive line help, specifically on the interior.
The Patriots played with backups at center, left tackle and right guard Sunday, and it showed. Tom Brady was sacked three times, and the Browns were in his face for much of the game, and he was forced to kill several plays to avoid taking big hits.
Brady only completed 20-of-36 passes (55.6 percent) for 259 yards, and the offense struggled before finally putting the game away in the fourth quarter. The Patriots also struggled to run the ball, averaging 2.9 yards per carry.
Left tackle Marshall Newhouse has been an issue, and he whiffed badly on one third down and allowed a sack to Olivier Vernon. But the Patriots can fortify that position with Isaiah Wynn’s return off injured reserve (he is eligible to play in Week 11 against Dallas). But center Ted Karras also has been spotty subbing for David Andrews, and James Ferentz struggled at times on Sunday as he filled in for Shaq Mason.
I don’t know if any guards or centers will come available before the deadline. But the Patriots could stand to fortify their offensive line, specifically up the middle.
■ That said, this was a good win. The Patriots were dealing with a significant disadvantage – the Browns entered the game with 14 days of rest, while the Patriots only had six. The weather was dreadful, making it tough on the Patriots’ makeshift offense. And the Patriots still drove the ball when they needed to, going 84 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, and 62 yards for a game-icing field goal in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t the prettiest win, but they still executed in the key moments. And now they’re 8-0, holding a 2½-game lead for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
■ Brady looked really uncomfortable for much of the night — a combination of the makeshift offensive line and the Patriots’ ever-rotating cast of receivers. Phillip Dorsett had a nice, 33-yard catch early, and Ben Watson had an acrobatic 26-yarder in the fourth quarter. Otherwise, Julian Edelman (eight catches, 78 yards, two touchdowns) and James White (four catches for 75 yards) were pretty much the entire passing game.
But improve the offensive line, and give Mohamed Sanu (two catches, 23 yards) more time to learn the offense, and the passing game should improve.
■ The running game struggled again, so much so that the Patriots had to turn to screen passes in the third quarter. And it worked, with White scampering 59 yards on the key play of the game (with a great block from Joe Thuney to spring it at the line of scrimmage).
But while Sony Michel only rushed for 74 yards on 21 carries, I thought he did a much better job of running through tacklers and falling forward this game. Michel got stuffed once on the goal line, but he displayed more power than usual.
■ The Browns seemed to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball for a good stretch of the game, and were giving the Patriots a bit of a scare in the third quarter. Baker Mayfield completed 11 consecutive passes at one point, and Nick Chubb (20 carries for 131 yards) was running all over the Patriots’ defense.
Credit coach Freddie Kitchens for getting the Patriots in a bad matchup — Dont’a Hightower covering tight end Demetrius Harris one-on-one in the open field, resulting in an easy 21-yard touchdown catch for Harris.
Believe it or not, this was probably the best offensive performance by an opponent the Patriots have faced in the first half of this season. Credit the Browns for not completely melting down.
■ But the Browns still sabotaged themselves too much to pull off the upset. They entered the game averaging a league-high 9.5 penalties per game, and committed 13 for 85 yards. Kitchens also wasted two challenges and timeouts with two ill-conceived challenge calls.
The Browns also committed two bone-headed turnovers in the first quarter that basically gave the game to the Patriots — guard Joel Bitonio kicking the ball out of Chubb’s hands, and Mayfield getting intercepted on a shovel pass. The Browns proved that you need to play a perfect game to knock off the Patriots.
■ And the Patriots’ pass defense was once again stellar. Odell Beckham Jr., shadowed all day by Stephon Gilmore, had five catches for 52 yards, but 31 came on one play. And Jarvis Landry had a quiet five catches for 65 yards with Jonathan Jones trailing him. Mayfield finished with just 194 yards on 20-of-31 passing (6.3 yards per attempt). The Patriots have the best secondary in the NFL, and showed it again Sunday.
■ Speaking of Jones, he made one of the Patriots’ top plays of the season in the first quarter. Chubb broke away for a 44-yard run after slipping out of multiple tackles. Jones, who initially fell down away from the play, picked himself up, sprinted downfield, caught Chubb from behind and swatted the ball out of his hands for a fumble inside the New England 10-yard line. It was shades of the Ben Watson play in the playoffs against Denver in 2006. Jones deserves a game ball for that hustle play.
■ The Patriots’ run defense allowed 7.2 yards per carry, and the Patriots uncharacteristically missed several tackles. But I chalk it up to the weather, and the game plan. The Patriots were more than happy to let Mayfield hand off to Chubb and burn the clock in the second half.
■ The ’80s hair metal band Cinderella said it best — you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Stephen Gostkowski wasn’t the most consistent kicker this season, but now we’re starting to realize just how steady he has been over the years. Every field goal is now an adventure with Mike Nugent, who missed a 34-yard kick in the fourth quarter, had a 29-yard kick blocked, and had an ugly make from 20 yards. Bill Belichick also passed on field goal attempts of 51 and 42 yards, though the weather might have played a factor.
Either way, the Patriots have just one more game until the bye, next Sunday night at Baltimore. Belichick will probably roll with Nugent against the Ravens, but the Patriots should hold another kicker tryout during the bye week.