Yards per carry averaged by Cleveland Browns running backs in 22 carries on Sunday, showing the improvement that the Patriots had in run defense. Of course, that isn’t saying much because the Browns have one of the worst rush offenses in all of football. Nonetheless, the Patriots had allowed huge running games in recent weeks to pedestrian running attacks. Therefore, it is encouraging to see a game where the Patriots shut down the run and didn’t allow a gain of over seven yards (which came on the game’s first play). The Patriots still have a lot of work to do in this area, and an ailing Brandon Spikes won’t help matters, but at last Sunday was a marked improvement.
Passing yards by Browns’ quarterback Jason Campbell. He also threw for three touchdowns and completed 29 of 44 passes. Campbell was nine for nine in throws to tight end Jordan Cameron and 7/10 on throws to Josh Gordon. In recent weeks, the Patriots’ pass defense has been back to 2011 levels. But the worst part has been that they’ve allowed a multitude of big plays, including touchdowns of 80 and 40 yards against the Browns. The Patriots have been soft and had breakdowns in zone, and perhaps partially because of injuries, haven’t been playing at a high level in man coverage (Gordon’s big score was in man against Talib). An inconsistent pass rush hasn’t helped matters for the back-end. I still believe that the Patriots can improve in this area once they get healthy, but the recent struggles in the secondary are a serious cause for concern.
First half yards for the New England Patriots. Yeah, pretty awful.
Second half yards for the New England Patriots. And yeah, pretty awesome.
Tom Brady’s passer rating in the first half. Once again, awful. Granted, Brady didn’t have a lot of time to throw the football, but his accuracy was noticeably off.
Tom Brady’s passer rating in the second half against a very solid Browns’ pass defense. Brady was 25-33 for 323 yards and had two touchdowns. We’re going to throw that in the pretty awesome category too.
17Targets to Patriots running back Shane Vereen. That’s a high volume, and it shows how reliant the Patriots will be on Vereen without Rob Gronkowski. However, if Vereen continues to be targeted this much, he will become more and more of a priority for the defense to stop. That means he will see more and more defensive backs on him instead of linebackers, and it means less opportunity to create mismatches for Vereen. On the flip side, that could in turn create more opportunities for other Patriots skill players.
The Patriots goal-to-go efficiency on offense. The improvement in this area since Rob Gronkowski’s mid-season return has been well documented. But it is worth noting that the Patriots excelled in this area late in the game after Gronkowski went down. Three possessions is not a very large sample size, but it is a reason for hope.