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Film Review: How Patriots stopped the Browns #1 ranked rushing attack

The New England defense stuffed the Browns running backs in week 5.

The Cleveland Browns needed to establish the run if they were going to have any success against the New England Patriots. Cleveland boasted the #1 rushing attack in the NFL entering the week and RB Isaiah Crowell was the driving force of their offense.

Crowell was limited to 22 yards on 13 carries (1.69 yards per carry) after averaging 98.5 yards per game and 6.46 yards per carry over the first four weeks of the season.

How did the Patriots do it? It wasn’t that complicated. They just did their job.

“I think [the Patriots] were going to make sure they stopped [the run],” Browns head coach Hue Jackson said. “They loaded up to stop it. We have to do better. Like I said, I was disappointed because I think we can do it a little bit better than what we did, but they did, they slowed us down like no team has this season so we have to go back to the drawing board. I take responsibility for that. We have to get that part better, and we will."

One week after the Patriots were gashed by the Buffalo Bills thanks to poor tackling and gap integrity, the New England defense rose to the occasion and stuffed the Browns play after play after play.

The Patriots only needed to stop the run at the start of the game; once the Patriots had a two-score lead early in the 2nd quarter, the Browns needed to pass the ball in order to catch up. Just like last week when Jacoby Brissett couldn’t lead a comeback against the Bills, the Browns were on their 4th and 5th string quarterbacks and were unable to challenge the Patriots defense.

So in the first quarter, the Patriots set the tone with a run-smothering defensive front.

“[The Patriots] came out with kind of like a 6-1 look on us, kind of a blanket front,” Browns LG Joel Bitonio said after the game. “It took away some of our double teams and things like that, and they did a good job. They outplayed us today in the run game for sure, and it’s unfortunate because we wanted to run the ball, but they did a good job stopping it. We have to come back and get better and win some more one-on-one blocks."

Check out the very first play of the game:

The Patriots loaded the defensive line with six players on most first and second downs against the Browns. While the Browns run the ball on first or second down roughly 50% of the time, the Patriots wanted Browns QB Cody Kessler to win the game.

In weeks three and four, the Browns RB duo of Crowell and Duke Johnson combined for 46 carries on first or second down and they picked up 302 yards- a whopping 6.57 yards per carry average. The Patriots wanted to force Kessler and the Browns into second- and third-and-long situations so they sold out to stop the run.

Here is the result of the first play of the game:

The Browns are trying to double team undrafted rookie DT Woodrow Hamilton, while LG Joel Bitonio takes on DT Malcom Brown one-on-one. LT Joe Thomas is trying to get to the second level to engage LB Dont’a Hightower, but the congestion in the middle of the field makes it difficult. Brown does an excellent job of disengaging from a great guard in Bitonio to make the tackle.

The Patriots used a hat-on-hat approach to ensure the Browns couldn’t open a rushing lane into the second level and won their individual battles.

This the was the story in the first quarter. The Patriots didn’t allow any easy yards on the ground and Kessler actually responded well with a nice drive throwing the ball. But the lack of a Browns running game ultimately sank Cleveland’s chances of competing.

By the time the Browns touched the ball for the first time in the second half, the Patriots led 30-7 and the game was over. At that point in the game, the Browns had a mere 11 rushing yards on 13 attempts.

The Patriots defenders were much better at doing their job against the Browns than they were against the Bills. The Patriots will have a few more chances to improve against the Bengals and Steelers rushing attacks before the rematch against Buffalo.