NFL News & Analysis

NE-CLE grades: Tom Brady earns excellent grade in return

New England Patriots 33, Cleveland Browns 13

Here are the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the Patriorts’ 33-13 victory over the Browns.

New England Patriots

Quarterback grade: Tom Brady, 88.6

Brady’s first game back was vintage Brady

Quarterback Tom Brady looked in mid-season form despite being suspended for the first four games of the season. Outside of a dropped interception on a crossing route to Martellus Bennett, the four-time Super Bowl champion read the defense well, utilized his two dominant tight ends, and even showed off some impressive mobility when needed. Pick an area to highlight: 4-6, 180 yards and 1 INT on deep passes, 82.1 adjusted completion percentage, 2.11 average time to attempt.

Tom Brady under pressure versus the Browns


Top offensive grades:

QB Tom Brady, 88.6
TE Rob Gronkowski, 86.0
RT Cameron Fleming, 83.7
LT Nate Soldier, 83.5
LG Joe Thuney, 77.8

A healthy Gronk paired with Tom Brady is a dynamic duo

The Patriots had been easing TE Rob Gronkowski into action as he nursed a hamstring injury. One got the feeling they were waiting to unleash him when Brady came back and unleash him did they ever. After seeing just three targets in the previous two games, Brady threw to Gronk seven times, completing five for 109 yards. While he didn’t pay dirt in the endzone, he forced three missed tackles while showing his dominance in the run game.

Top defensive grades:

LB Elandon Roberts, 85.0
S Patrick Chung, 82.8
DT Alan Branch, 80.9
DT Woodrow Hamilton, 80.8
LB Jamie Collins, 80.8

Several rookies put forth a strong showing in the front seven

It’s telling that seven different Patriot defenders finished the day with more than one defensive stop, as the front seven gave Crowell and company a miserable afternoon. With just six career NFL snaps under his belt, rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts played nearly half of the snaps in this game and came out of it with six tackles, a team-high four defensive stops, and the defense’s highest grade. Woodrow Hamilton, in his first career game, earned an 84.7 grade against the run despite playing only 22 snaps (10 in run defense). While the focus will be on Brady after this game, it shouldn’t go unnoticed just how well Bill Belichick has this unit performing this year.

Cleveland Browns

Quarterback grade: Cody Kessler, 57.1; Charlie Whitehurst, 56.2

That Charlie Whitehurst was the fourth-highest offensive grade for the Browns is more of an indictment of the Cleveland offense as a whole than a positive point for Whitehurst. Thirteen of his 22 aimed passes were thrown within ten yards of the line of scrimmage, though he had more success in the intermediate range (10-19 yards in air), where he went five of seven for 101 yards. Kessler’s day was cut short, and while he was reasonably effective as a passer, his afternoon will be marred by the bizarre decision to attempt a backward pass to Duke Johnson which resulted in a safety.

Top offensive grades:

LT Joe Thomas, 73.0
LG Joel Bitonio, 72.8
WR Andrew Hawkins, 70.5
QB Charlie Whitehurst, 56.2
HB Duke Johnson, 53.7

Browns’ offensive line dismembered in the run game

For a team with question marks at quarterback, a solid running game is a necessity, yet Cleveland failed to open any holes on the ground. Among linemen and tight ends, only John Greco and sixth lineman Spencer Drango (on just five snaps) managed a run-blocking grade above 50 as New England’s defensive line consistently worked off blocks to make tackles around the line of scrimmage. One of our highest-graded running backs coming into this game and averaging 6.5 yards per carry, Isaiah Crowell averaged a meager 1.5 yards per carry on 14 attempts, earning 19 of his 21 yards after first contact.

Top defensive grades:

LB Demario Davis, 81.9
DI Danny Shelton, 78.3
CB Jamar Taylor, 77.6
CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, 76.0
ED Joe Schobert, 74.4

Mixed bag for Browns’ ILBs

While ILB Demario Davis grades as the top defender for the Browns, it was surprisingly his work in coverage that earned him that top spot. The fifth-year veteran was targeted seven times but allowed just four catches for 30 yards and notched a pass breakup as well. Davis’ stellar day in coverage was masked a bit by his struggles in the run game where he missed two tackles, took poor angles, and was blocked at the second level quite often. ILB Chris Kirksey was dominant in the run game notching a 96.3 grade in the category, notching an impressive eight run stops but he was the culprit for Gronk’s and Martellus Bennett’s big days allowing the TD reception to Bennett and getting beat by Gronk three times for 68 yards.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Patriots’ QB Tom Brady

PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.


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