Patriots - Browns: Keys To The Game

Rich Lyons takes the stats, injuries, news and notes from the week to get inside the game for his key battles and top observations for this week's matchup between the New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

Matchup Of The Game: Jarvis Green vs. Joe Thomas/Eric Steinbach

The Browns only hope in this game will be if they are able to establish the running gameearly. To do that, they are going to have to run the ball to the left side over Thomas and Steinbach. Jarvis Green will have his hands full trying to get into the backfield on not only runs, but as well as when Derek Anderson goes back to pass. If Anderson is given enough time to scour the field, he will find Winslow or Edwards, because both of them are outstanding playmakers, and therefore cannot both be double-covered at the same time. If Green is able to disrupt plays in the backfield, it will be a long day for the Browns’ offense.

New England Keys To Victory:

1. Running The Ball: Cleveland’s defense has looked very soft against the run. The health of Maroney will obviously determine how the carries are split up. Regardless, Sammy Morris showed last week that he can be a guy who can handle the ball 20-25 times a game and be effective. The Pats may once again sit Maroney because of the opponent, but still, the Patriots will be looking to control the speed of the game and keep Anderson on the sidelines.

2. Confuse Derek Anderson: Anderson has been effective against the 3-4 defense. Just ask the Ravens, who were barely able to survive Anderson’s first appearance against him last year, and were demolished last week. While he is not an elite quarterback by any means, Anderson still has good vision, and has two big-time targets that will keep the Pats’ defense busy. Last Monday, the Patriots were able to get to Carson Palmer despite only rushing four men on most occasions. It was the way the defense set up that continued to baffle Palmer all night, and led to him having his worst game of the year. The Patriots need to show Anderson a lot of looks so that he is thinking about more than the play being called. This is what makes New England so good against young quarterbacks.

3. Turnovers: Despite the fact that the Patriots come into the game with a +4 turnover margin, good for a tie for 5th in the league, they must be extra careful about not allowing the Browns to come into good field position off of a fumble or an interception. There’s only so much that a defense can do, and when the opposing team starts their drive 30-40 yards away from the end zone, they are almost guaranteed to bend and at least give up a field goal, or worse, a touchdown. To guard against this, the Pats need to keep their risk exposure way down, meaning a lot of runs and short passes. While this may not be what the fans want, especially after the couple of times they have seen Randy Moss make the huge downfield catch, it will help control the clock, and reduce the chances of turning the ball over in their own territory.

Cleveland Keys To Victory:

1. Jamal Lewis To Set Up The Passing Game: While it will be just about impossible for the Browns to get Jamal Lewis 100 yards for the game, they nevertheless need to show that they will not be afraid to put the ball on the ground against this front seven. With that, Anderson will be able to use play action to look for Edwards, Jurevicius, or Winslow down the field. If the Browns abandon the running game early, they will leave themselves open to a pass rush onslaught that the offensive line may not be able to handle.

2. No Risk, No Reward: In quite the opposite fashion to what the Patriots need to do, the Browns simply have to take chances on both sides of the ball. They come into this game clearly overmatched, and considering this game is at Foxboro, they need to do everything they can to take the crowd out of the game. I expect Anderson to be launching the ball down the sidelines in hopes that Ellis Hobbs or Asante Samuel cannot make a play on the ball. On defense, the key is to put pressure on Tom Brady. Kamerion Wimbley from the outside will have to be a factor, and also, I would expect the Browns to try and blitz early to maybe get some incompletions or lost-yardage plays that will put the Pats in third-and-longs.

3. Using The Past To Help The Present: Romeo Crennel coached nearly every guy on the Patriots’ defensive roster, so he has to know their strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies when they are out on the field. While even that may not be enough to help his offensive, he definitely has the advantage of knowing the Pats’ base 3-4 defense and what they like to do in certain situations. The hope is to keep the game within reason so that the Browns could catch the Pats sleeping in the later stages of the game.

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