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Patriots vs Browns advanced stats: Running game remains an area of concern on both sides of the ball

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Related: Patriots vs Browns snap counts: New England’s new acquisitions play considerable snaps

Cleveland Browns Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The New England Patriots are 8-0, after a hard-fought victory against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Fueled by another tremendous defensive effort, the Patriots started out well but allowed the visitors to get back into the contest as it went along. Ultimately, however, the club made the plays when it had to en route to a 27-13 victory. With that all being said, let’s dig a little deeper and analyze the advanced statistics to come out of Sunday’s game.

Pass distribution

NFL Next Gen Stats

With the exception of an interception on a shovel pass — Patriots defensive tackle Lawrence Guy burst through the line to pick off the attempt — Baker Mayfield had a solid game against New England’s outstanding secondary. While only four of his attempts beyond 10 yards down the field were completed, he was generally accurate targeting the intermediate areas of the field. Considering the unit he went up against and how his season went so far, the Browns can feel good about Mayfield’s performance.

Tom Brady, meanwhile, had a good game as well despite the pass protection not always being up to par. The future Hall of Famer spread the football around, targeting eight players and also getting trade acquisition Mohamed Sanu involved right away in his first game — the duo connected on two passes, including a fourth down conversion. All in all, Brady’s sound decision making and accuracy were on full display in the difficult conditions the game was played in on Sunday.

Offensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

New England once again had an up-and-down day running the football. While Sony Michel had some solid runs, his overall numbers remain rather pedestrian — as remains the run blocking in front of him and the other backs. Meanwhile, neither Rex Burkhead nor James White were able to fare much better on the ground. Granted, the Browns have a very talented defensive front but the team’s run defense was among the worst in the league entering the contest.

Pass receiving

Pass receiving statistics

Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Yards after Catch Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Drops
Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Yards after Catch Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Drops
Julian Edelman 66 11 8 78 17 2 0 131.8 0
Phillip Dorsett II 64 6 3 43 4 0 0 73.6 0
Benjamin Watson 48 1 1 26 0 0 0 118.8 0
Mohamed Sanu 37 5 2 23 4 0 0 54.6 1
James White 28 5 4 75 74 0 0 118.8 0
Jakobi Meyers 25 2 1 5 1 0 0 56.3 0
Rex Burkhead 13 1 1 9 12 0 0 104.2 0
Brandon Bolden 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 39.6 1
NFL/Pro Football Focus

As noted above, Mohamed Sanu was involved quite a bit during his first game with the Patriots as a rotational third option at wide receiver. His overall contributions to the team’s passing offense were limited when compared to other players, however, especially when compared to Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and James White — the three remain Tom Brady’s favorite pass catchers eight weeks into the season and with Josh Gordon no longer a part of the equation. Sanu is expected to see his snaps and targets increase, though.

Receiver separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

With the exception of undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers, who was targeted just twice by Tom Brady, the quarterback trusted his receivers to make plays when covered tightly: Benjamin Watson, for example, was open just 0.91 yards when he caught a perfectly executed back-shoulder fade for a gain of 26 yards — his lone catch of the day but a perfect example of the trust that Brady has in him; something that can also be said about Edelman, Dorsett and even Sanu.

Baker Mayfield played a similar game, although the results were not always advantageous for the offense. His top two targets, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, combined to catch only 10 passes on 17 targets for 117 yards — solid numbers but below the capabilities of both players.

Pass protection

Pass protection statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries
Marshall Newhouse 69 2.0 1 2
James Ferentz 69 0.0 1 3
Marcus Cannon 69 0.0 1 3
Joe Thuney 69 0.0 0 1
Ted Karras 69 0.0 0 0
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The Patriots ran 39 passing plays against the Browns, and the defense was able to pressure Tom Brady on 14 of his drop-backs for a rate of 35.9%. Once again Marshall Newhouse, who is still filling in for an injured Isaiah Wynn, led the offensive line in pressures given up: the starting left tackle, who could see his job go back to Wynn by Week 12, surrendered a pair of sacks and also allowed Brady to be hit once and hurried two additional times.

Newhouse was not the only lineman to struggle, however, as Marcus Cannon and James Ferentz — the latter starting in place of Shaq Mason, who was inactive because of an ankle injury — also had their fair share of inconsistent play.

Pass rush/run defense

Pass rush/run defense statistics

Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries Run stops
Player Snaps Sacks QB Hits Hurries Run stops
Jamie Collins Sr. 65 1.0 1 1 2
Kyle Van Noy 59 1.5 0 1 0
Patrick Chung 58 0.0 0 1 0
Dont'a Hightower 42 0.0 2 2 0
Lawrence Guy 35 0.0 0 2 1
Danny Shelton 35 0.0 0 1 0
Adam Butler 33 2.0 0 0 1
Chase Winovich 18 0.5 2 1 0
Deatrich Wise Jr. 17 0.0 1 0 0
Shilique Calhoun 17 0.0 0 1 0
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The “Boogeymen” again played a big role in the Patriots’ victory: linebacker Dont’a Hightower scoring the game’s first touchdown off a Nick Chubb fumble, before defensive backs Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty combined to recover another fumble by Chubb, and Lawrence Guy registered an interception that helped New England get a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. The four men made the biggest plays of the day for the Patriots’ defense but far from the only standouts.

Linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins combined to register 2.5 sacks, a hit and two hurries versus Baker Mayfield, while Adam Butler led the entire unit with a pair of quarterback takedowns of his own. All in all, New England saw some major contributions from its front line defenders again. That being said, not all was perfect as a look at the run defense shows:

Defensive rush direction

NFL Next Gen Stats

Even though he coughed the football up on back-to-back plays in the first quarter, the Browns running back Nick Chubb had a productive day on the ground against the Patriots. The second-year man finished the day with 20 carries for 131 yards and was especially productive getting yardage on the outside: Chubb averaged 5.4 yards per carry outside the left tackle, and an impressive 9.8 on the other side of the formation.

While New England’s defense adapted well in the second half — Chubb’s yards per carry decreased from 9.2 to 3.9 — the Browns were still able to do their fair share of damage in the running game.

Pass rush separation

NFL Next Gen Stats

As noted above, Adam Butler had a strong performance rushing from the defensive interior; his two sacks and the average 4.1-yard separation per rush to Mayfield are proof of that. In terms of getting close to the opposing quarterback, however, the Browns’ Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon were even more impressive: the two highly talented edge defenders were giving the Patriots’ offensive tackles issues all day long.

Pass coverage

Pass coverage statistics

Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Pass Breakups
Player Snaps Targets Completions Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Rating Pass Breakups
Stephon Gilmore 68 6 3 42 0 0 72.9 1
Jamie Collins Sr. 65 2 2 26 0 0 118.8 0
Patrick Chung 58 2 1 2 0 0 56.3 1
Jonathan Jones 47 6 3 31 0 0 65.3 0
Jason McCourty 44 3 2 21 0 0 86.8 0
Dont'a Hightower 42 1 1 21 1 0 158.3 0
J.C. Jackson 38 1 0 0 0 0 39.6 0
Lawrence Guy 35 1 0 0 0 1 0.0 0
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Despite having to go up against one of the NFL’s best receiving duos — Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry — the Patriots’ secondary once again held its ground. Led by impressive performances from Stephon Gilmore and slot cornerback Jonathan Jones, the unit limited the damage Cleveland did through the air by playing tight man-to-man coverage. New England’s defensive backfield is the best in football, and it showed versus a dangerous arsenal capable of quickly flipping field position.