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Nuggetpalooza’s Pats schedule preview: Cleveland

08.26.10 at 10:15 am ET
By

The Patriots meet the Browns on Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. in Cleveland.

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What The Browns Did Well Last Season:

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* – Played Tough Early Defense: The Browns allowed just 16 points on the game’s opening possession last season (1 touchdown and 3 field goals). That was the 3rd fewest such points allowed in the league.

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* – Limited Damage on Long Drives: While Cleveland’s defense had trouble getting off the field (allowed 35 drives of 10+ plays; 2nd most in the league), opponents averaged just 2.8 points on those possessions, the 4th best mark in the league.

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* – Strong Third Down Defense In Red Zone: Here’s a big reason why the Browns were able to avoid major damage on opponents’ long drives: They allowed just 10 of 36 third down conversions in the red zone (27.8%), the 2nd lowest percentage in the NFL:

17.9% – Arizona Cardinals (5-28)
27.8% – Cleveland Browns (10-36)
28.6% – Baltimore Ravens (8-28)

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* – Net Field Position: Thanks mainly to the return skills of Josh Cribbs, the Browns ranked 8th in net starting field position as their average start (the 30.5) was 1.9 yards better than their opponents’ average start (the 28.6).

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* – Knocked Around Opposing Passers: Cleveland’s pass rushers knocked down the passer on 16.8% of opponents’ pass plays, the 2nd highest percentage in the NFL last season:

18.9% – Minnesota Vikings
16.8% – Cleveland Browns
16.7% – Washington Redskins

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* – Good Pass Defense Inside Their 30: Once opposing offenses drove inside the Cleveland 30 yard line, the Browns pass defense stiffened, allowing just 3.28 yards per pass attempt, the best in the NFL:

3.28 – Cleveland Browns
3.80 – San Francisco 49ers
3.95 – New York Jets

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* – No Early Rushing Touchdowns Allowed: The Browns enter 2010 having not allowed a rushing touchdown in the first quarter in their last 13 games, the 3rd longest active streak in the league:

29 – New England Patriots
17- Minnesota Vikings
13 – Cleveland Browns

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* – Outstanding Kickoff Return Defense: Cleveland allowed just an 18.9 yard average on kickoff returns last season, the best mark in the league:

18.9 – Cleveland Browns
19.1 – Tampa Bay Bucs
19.7 – Washington Redskins

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* – Avoided Penalties: The Browns were penalized only 678 yards last season, 3rd fewest in the league (Jacksonville, 542).

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* – Punt Returns: Cleveland averaged 11.7 yards per punt return last season, 3rd highest in the NFL. What’s more, they only called for fair catches on 7% of punts, the lowest percentage in the league.

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What The Browns Did Poorly Last Season:

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* – Unproductive 1st Down Plays: The Browns gained 4 or more yards on just 42% of their first down plays last season, 2nd worst in the league (SF, 41%).

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* – Poor Passing Accuracy: 41.8% of passes thrown by Browns’ quarterbacks last season were scored as uncatchable, the highest percentage in the NFL:

41.8% – Cleveland Browns
41.5% – New York Jets
41.1% – Tampa Bay Bucs

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* – Awful Passing Versus Blitzes: Cleveland’s 47 passer rating versus blitzes was the worst in the NFL, as was their 45% completions in those situations. Their 4.1 net yards per pass play against them was 2nd worst (St. Louis, 3.9). That would explain why an NFL-high 47% of the Browns’ pass plays came versus extra rushers.

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* – Couldn’t Recover From Poor Offensive Starting Field Position: Cleveland started 45 drives inside their own 20 yard line last season and managed points on just 2 of them (4.4%), the lowest percentage in the NFL:

4.4% – Cleveland Browns
9.1% – Carolina Panthers
10.9% – Buffalo Bills

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* – Couldn’t Stop Opponents Even With Field Position Advantage: Cleveland’s opponents started an NFL-high 60 drives inside their own 20 yard line, but the Browns still allowed an average of 1.72 points on those drives, the 2nd highest average in the league:

2.18 – St. Louis Rams
1.72 – Cleveland Browns
1.58 – Miami Dolphins

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* – Allowed Long Gains On Backfield Passes: The Browns allowed gains of 25 or more yards 3 times last season on passes completed behind the line of scrimmage. From 2004-2008, they allowed a total of just 2 such gains.

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Check back tomorrow for a preview of New England’s October 24 opponent, the San Diego Chargers!

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