Spoiled with Brady. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was well off the mark throughout. Anyone that might take for granted the presence of Tom Brady, and how he uplifts the entire team and effectively runs the offense, only needed to watch this game to have any perspective restored.
Can win with Hoyer. Former Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer (2009-2011) looks like he's grown into the position. The ball was coming out of his hands quickly, he was accurate and decisive in his decision-making, and he didn't make the critical mistake. With the way the Browns play stingy, physical defense, Hoyer's leadership and command of the offense appears to be the perfect fit for Cleveland (he's 9-3 as their starter over the last two seasons). A free agent after the season, Hoyer is positioning himself for a nice payday and this reflects well on the Patriots' development at the position, as Hoyer, Ryan Mallett (Houston) and Matt Cassel (Vikings) are former New England backups who have elevated to top roles this season.
Points off turnovers. Not that the Patriots need any reminders about the importance of turnovers, but the first 10 points of the game were produced off them. The Browns' initial touchdown came following an interception, and the Bengals' field goal came after punt returner Jim Leonhard lost a fumble. The Patriots, of course, lead the NFL with a plus-12 turnover differential.
Getting the power run game going. With rookies Terrance West (5-9, 225) and Isaiah Crowell (5-11, 225) leading the way, often on toss plays to the outside, the Browns had their power run game going (170 yards), which set up the play-action passing game. West was a third-round pick, while Crowell was an undrafted free agent. The Patriots are riding with undrafted free agent Jonas Gray (230 pounds) at this point and he has a similar running style as West and Crowell.
Downing punts inside the 5. One area the Patriots missed some opportunities Sunday was with field position on punts close to the goal-line, and one of the few bright spots for the Bengals was Dre Kirkpatrick effectively keeping the football in play before it was downed at the 3 in the third quarter.
Hoyer credits Patriots. In his postgame interview with NFL Network, Hoyer was asked how he handled the pressure of competing against hyped rookie Johnny Manziel while coming off a torn ACL and he credited the Patriots. "I really ignored the outside noise," Hoyer said. "My time in New England, with Coach Belichick, we ignored the noise a lot. This was the least stressful training camp of my life because I had a chance to be a starting quarterback and that's what you always ask for."