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Patriots vs. Browns: Three Takeaways

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Three major takeaways from the New England Patriots’ 27-26 comeback victory over the Cleveland Browns.

Jim Rogash

Three major takeaways from the New England Patriots’ 27-26 comeback victory over the Cleveland Browns:

Shane Vereen will be the Patriots’ key weapon down the stretch: It’s fair to say that the Patriots’ turnaround on Sunday was nearly single-handedly sparked by running back Shane Vereen. With the Patriots down 19-3 in the third quarter, Vereen would beat Browns linebacker Craig Robertson down the left sideline for 49 yards. The next play, Vereen crosses up another Cleveland linebacker for 16 yards. And then on the final play of the three play drive, Vereen took a delay for six yards and a score (with credit to Danny Amendola for an awesome pancake block on D’Qwell Jackson). In three plays, Vereen turned the game around for the Patriots. He would finish the game by grabbing seven more passes and breaking single-game franchise records in receptions (12) and yards (153) for a running back. Down the stretch, the Browns were consistently lining up cornerbacks on Vereen, but he was still able to beat them. After Rob Gronkowski went down yesterday, one thing became clear yesterday: Shane Vereen is going to be the key to this offense remaining versatile and dynamic down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Josh Boyce can be a playmaker: With both Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson out with injuries, the forgotten rookie, Josh Boyce, received a chance to start at the x-receiver spot on the outside. Boyce responded well, playing a career high in snaps (72) and also recording career highs in receptions (3) and yards (49). He also drew the pass interference that set up the winning touchdown on the final drive. Boyce looked like the type of player whom you find a way to get the ball – an impressive 38 of his 49 receiving yards were after the catch. He may not be the #2 or #3 receiver down the stretch, but whether it’s returning a kick or catching a bubble screen, Boyce proved he deserves some touches.

Sealver Siliga is the Patriots’ new run stuffing defensive tackle: For those updating your depth charts at home, there’s a new name to pencil in as a starter at defensive tackle: Sealver Siliga. Siliga is a 23 year old, 6’2” and 325 lbs defensive tackle out of Utah. He spent 2011 and 2012 with the Broncos, before being traded to the Seahawks in August and was released without playing in a game (also had a short stint on their practice squad). He was signed to the Patriots’ practice squad in late October, before being signed to the active roster on November 27th. And in just his second game with the Patriots, Siliga took over as a starter opposite Chris Jones and ended up playing 53 of 76 snaps while the Patriots had their best game defending the run in quite a while. Siliga looked like he could be a legitimate 1st and 2nd down option, and it is telling that he played almost every snap that most had projected would go to Isaac Sopoaga. The Patriots desperately need help defending the run, and it looks like Siliga is ready to play his part.