Rookie backup Bailey Zappe threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns in his third NFL game, Bill Belichick tied George Halas for second on the all-time list with his 324th victory, and the New England Patriots buried the Cleveland Browns 38-15 on Sunday.
Zappe, starting his second game in place of the injured Mac Jones, threw second-half TD passes to Tyquan Thornton and Hunter Henry as the Patriots (3-3) pulled away from the anemic Browns. Rhamondre Stevenson rushed for two touchdowns for New England.
Zappe finished 24 of 34 passing a week after he threw for 188 yards and a touchdown in his first start last week in a 29-0 win over Detroit.
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Belichick, who is 324-159 including the playoffs, has a chance to pass Halas next Monday night at home against Chicago — the franchise with which Halas won all his games.
The Patriots’ offense took a while to get going in this one, and Browns (2-4) never really did.
Late in the first half, Stevenson broke through, bounced left and tore down the sideline for a 31-yard score.
Early in the second half, Zappe hooked up with Jonnu Smith for 53 yards to get down the Browns 20, and a 13-yard completion to tight end Hunter Henry set up first-and-goal at the 2. Three plays later, Tyquan Thornton grabbed Zappe’s short toss in the end zone.
Later Patriots linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley hit Jacoby Brissett as he was throwing, leading to a pick by Jalen Mills that gave them the ball at the Cleveland 40. Three plays later, Zappe found a wide-open Henry, who ran untouched for a 31-touchdown and a 24-6 New England lead.
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The Browns offense produced only a pair of first-half field goals by Cade York.
Cleveland’s Nick Chubb, who entered leading the NFL in rushing, didn’t have a double-digit gain until late in the third quarter. He had 23 yards rushing and 14 receiving on that drive, but again the Browns stalled — and York came on for a 51-yard field goal.
Chubb finished with 12 carries for 56 yards, both season lows.
Brissett, who finished 21 for 45 for 266 yards with two interceptions, threw a 15-yard scoring pass to Amari Cooper in the fourth quarter but a 2-point attempt failed, leaving it a two-score game with 6:22 left.
New England sealed it with a 19-yard end-around for a touchdown by Thornton. Brissett fumbled the ball away on the Browns’ next drive, leading to Stevenson’s second TD, a 6-yard plunge with 3:40 left.
It was the most points allowed by Cleveland this season and its most lopsided loss.
Patriots: WR Kendrick Bourne left in the second quarter with a toe injury. … DL Christan Barmore (knee) was helped off the field in the second quarter and was ruled out. … Cody Davis suffered a knee injury in the first half and didn’t return.
Browns: DE Myles Garrett was helped off the field in the second half. … Pro Bowl RG Wyatt Teller left in the second quarter with a calf injury.
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Patriots: Host the Bears on “Monday Night Football” on Oct. 24.
Browns: At Baltimore to face the AFC North-rival Ravens next Sunday.