FOXBOROUGH — Sunday night, at the opposing postgame coach’s podium, it was Freddie Kitchens’ turn.
But it might as well have been Doug Marrone, Sean McDermott, John Harbaugh, Mike Nagy, Anthony Lynn, Pat Shurmur, Andy Reid, Jason Garrett, Ron Rivera, Mike Tomlin or Adam Gase.
It could have been coaches past like Ron Marinelli, Dick Jauron, Jimmy Johnson, Marvin Lewis, Cam Cameron, Gary Kubiak, Wade Phillips and Brad Childress.
He simply could not match up with Bill Belichick.
“We turned the ball over to them too many times,” said Kitchens after the New England Patriots beat the Cleveland Browns, 27-13, here at Gillette Stadium.
“We committed too many penalties. If we don’t make those mistakes we can win the game. … You can’t do that against this team. … They don’t make mistakes.”
Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Sure, there is truth to what Kitchens & Co. have said. In fact, Kitchens pounced on the fact the Patriots are 92-2 at Gillette Stadium when they win the turnover battle, which they won handily Sunday night, 3-1.
But counting and comparing miscues doesn’t tell half the story.
Teams like the Browns, weak in the mental side of the game, don’t simply lose because of a few drops, fumbles, interceptions or jumping offsides by happenstance. They lose because of what they do when they play a superior opponent.
They buckle under pressure.
Their true character — oftentimes related to individual goals superseding team goals — almost always is exposed over a 60-minute contest.
The Patriots looked disinterested for at least half of the game after taking a 17-0 lead courtesy of three turnovers on three plays (not a misprint).
That’s happens when half of the fans stay home or remain inside the dry and warm confines of the club seating floor. You don’t get that energy crowds from Kansas City, Pittsburgh or Dallas bring.
But the Browns were tough. They ran the ball with some success (Nick Chubb, 20 rushes for 131 yards) and they not only slowed the Patriots running game (27 rushes, 79 yards), but they made life uncomfortable for Tom Brady, sacking him three times.
The stats and numbers, though, were meaningless.
The Patriots were in control from start to finish, a classic Belichick desire and performance in many of his 300 wins, 263 of which have been since he joined the Patriots in 2000.
What the Patriots did to the Browns, creating three turnovers, is not the exception in 2019. In fact, it’s the rule. The Patriots, through eight games, have 19 more turnovers than they’ve allowed.
Did you think it was misfortune that Jonathan Jones, the fastest Patriot of them all, ran 50 yards and caught up to Chubb, before punching the ball out inside the Patriots’ 10-yard line?
They had planned to be “punching” said Jones, because of the rain.
Belichick, though, gave us a reality check when we were calling Jones everything but a Hall of Famer.
“Recovering it was the other half of the battle,” he reminded us.
Baker Mayfield, who was average — 20 for 31, 194 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception — may have encapsulated what the Patriots are about on defense. He might as well have been talking for the dozens of coaches who have come here and failed, some more miserably than others.
“They’re in the right place at the right time,” said Mayfield.
I hate to pick on the Browns. But they are an easy target.
They have accomplished nothing, yet because of a few names — see Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr., Myles Garrett, etc. — they come to Foxborough and they believe, if not for a few mistakes, they could’ve, would’ve and should’ve won.
The Browns are 2-5. They are clueless.
The Patriots are 8-0. They are the class of the NFL … again. And there is a method to this madness.
They are tougher, physically and mentally, and because of their head coach and to some extent their quarterback, winning, not turnovers, is the only important stat of them all.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.