New England Patriots

  • Last week, most of the game plan talk around the Patriots was about them stopping a strong rushing offense, while being able to move the ball on a weak defense. As the team prepares this week, a lot of those similar themes are being echoed.

    The Browns are, in some ways, a better version of the Lions. Their rosters are constructed philosophically similarly – power running games leading the way on offense a defense that is more stout up front than on the back end but still struggles overall.

    That being said, the Browns feature more star power at key positions. Some of those standout players the Patriots have handled in the past, others present new challenges.

    Last year, the Patriots were able to neutralize the Browns’ biggest threats, on their way to a 45-7 win at Gillette Stadium. Will they find similar success this year? If they want to, here are the matchups they need to win…

  • When New England has the ball: Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown vs. Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney

    PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 03: Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns high-fives teammate Jadeveon Clowney #90 in the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on January 03, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

    PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA – JANUARY 03: Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns high-fives teammate Jadeveon Clowney #90 in the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on January 03, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

    It’s not uncommon for Bill Belichick to be highly complimentary of players on the opposing team leading up to a game. Looking closely though, it’s possible to tell which statements are more genuine than others.

    Two such Belichick tells are the phrases “game wrecker” and “game ruiner.” They’re terms he doesn’t use often. On the limited list of players he’s put in that category are Aaron Donald, Joey Bosa, Chris Jones, and Dervin James. This week, he added Cleveland’s edge duo of Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney to the mix.

    “Garrett and Clowney are as good of book ends as there are,” Belichick noted on Wednesday. He added that the duo “are certainly capable of wrecking the game on any play, run, and pass with their explosive speed, length, you name it. They’re very dangerous on every play there.”

    In last year’s matchup, the Patriots were able to limit that duo to just three tackles and one sack (Garrett). They’ll need a similar effort from Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn – with the running backs and tight ends helping by chipping and running check and releases.

    Like last week, the Patriots’ offensive game plan figures to be run heavy. When defending the run, this duo and the Browns’ defense as a whole has been below average. Still, they’ll need to throw at some point, and Garrett and Clowney don’t need too many chances to make their mark. There’s no quicker way for this game to get out of hand from the Patriots’ point of view than letting his pass rush duo take over, even if they’re not dropping back to pass a ton.


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  • When Cleveland has the ball: Nick Chubb vs. Patriots tacklers

    CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 22: Nick Chubb #24 of the Cleveland Browns rushes ahead of Terrell Edmunds #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 22, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

    CLEVELAND, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 22: Nick Chubb #24 of the Cleveland Browns rushes ahead of Terrell Edmunds #34 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium on September 22, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

    For the second week in a row, the Patriots face an offense that is led by a dominant running game. Unlike last week though, this time the team on the other side has its top running back.

    So far this season the Browns have run for 5.3 yards per carry, which ranks fifth in the NFL. Some of that is their outstanding offensive line play, but running back Nick Chubb has been a big part of it as well.

    Chubb, who was injured for last week’s matchup with the Patriots, entered Week 6 leading the NFL in rushing. But it’s not just a matter of taking what his offensive line is giving him. He’s among the league leaders in yards after contact, as well as broken tackles. No back in the NFL has more runs of 10-plus yards than he does.

    There are going to be times when Chubb finds space coming across the line of scrimmage. The Browns are too talented up front to think the Patriots’ defense will clog every rushing lane for 60 minutes. Instead, the real key is limiting the damage once Chubb gets into the second level – not letting five-yard runs become 15-yard runs.

    Through five games, the Patriots have missed 29 tackles. That’s tied for the seventh-most in football. That’s something that will need to improve this week, both in terms of individual fundamental tackling and gang tackling with defenders flowing to the football.

  • Bonus: Bill Belichick vs. Jacoby Brissett

    Sep 22, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) celebrates with tight end Harrison Bryant (88) after rushing for a first down during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Credit: David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 22, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett (7) celebrates with tight end Harrison Bryant (88) after rushing for a first down during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium. Credit: David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports

    For the third time in three years, Bill Belichick prepares to face a quarterback he himself selected in the draft. After Jimmy Garoppolo in 2020 and Tom Brady last year, it’s Jacoby Brissett’s turn.

    Belichick is 11-6 all-time against quarterbacks who formerly played for him, and 2-2 against quarterbacks he either drafted or signed as unsigned free agents. He’s lost the last two such games though, against Garoppolo and Brady.

    “He’s a big kid with a strong arm. He’s tough and he’s smart. He does a good job with the system that they’re running. He does a good job with it and doesn’t turn the ball over. He gets some scramble yards,” Belichick said of Brissett this week. “he does a nice job of running the offense and scoring – whatever it is – 26 points a game [26.6]. That’s part of the quarterback’s job to score points.”

    While the Patriots will likely mainly focus on the Browns running game, it will be interesting to see how Belichick schemes up a defense against Brissett. Can he get back in the win column against his former QBs?

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.