The first five games of the season can only be described by one word. Frustration. Cleveland desperately needs to find a consistent way to be able to close out games in the 4th quarter. Here are three ways that the Browns can beat the Patriots in no particular order:
Take advantage of New England’s inability to convert third downs on offense.
New England is only converting 38.2% of their 3rd-down attempts this season, which is currently ranked bottom 10 in the NFL. This is one of the most important stats to pay attention to in almost any offense. Cleveland’s defense needs to continue stopping teams on 3rd down so that they’re able to get off the field and get the ball into the hands of Nick Chubb as much as they possibly can.
This is currently one of Joe Woods’ strong suits as far as scheme and/or situational play calling. Through five games so far, this Cleveland defense ranks inside the top 12 in opposing 3rd-down conversion rate at only 35.2%.
Don’t get too fancy in short-yardage or red-zone situations on offense, Kevin.
Over the past two weeks specifically, there have been situations where Kevin Stefanski tried to utilize odd formations in short-yardage situations to try and confuse or disguise what he’s trying to do. To his defense, you can definitely understand the thought process of wanting to try and give Nick Chubb or Kareem Hunt a better chance to convert.
When you have a player like Nick Chubb and one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, you don’t have to do all of that though. The defense knows that Chubb, Hunt, or Brissett is going to run the ball when its 3rd&2.
Cleveland already faces more 8-man boxes than any other team in the league. The best part about it is the fact that defenses know that Nick Chubb is coming, and they still can’t stop him. Trying to “window dress” by motioning tight ends pre-snap, or lining up in shotgun could actually end up hurting the conversion outlook. Teams could start keying in on some of the tendencies that Stefanski has in this aspect.
Pressure rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe.
Zappe picked apart the Detroit Lions’ defense for the most part in week five. He did throw an interception but ended up completing over 80% of his passes on the day. The main catalyst for this was the simple fact that he was only pressured twice the entire game.
Part of the reason for this lack of pass rush was that the Detroit defense only blitzed five times, which was extremely odd due to the lack of pass rush they typically get from just rushing with their front four. It’s well documented that Cleveland has arguably the top pass rush duo in Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Needless to say, there’s a pretty big difference in the talent gap between Detroit and Cleveland in this aspect.
New England is currently relying on Zappe’s ability to get the ball out quickly and accurately on short to intermediate routes due to his lack of overall arm strength. He’s not going to be launching balls downfield, even in a clean pocket. If the Browns can shut down some of Zappe’s go-to underneath routes and pressure him early on, there’s a good chance that he is going to make mistakes.