Everything that transpired in the Patriots-Browns matchup was improbable and emotional. Of course, when it all comes down to it, the Patriots won because they limited their drops in the second half, were able to limit Jason Campbell‘s completions down the stretch and every bit of minutiae in between.
That’s not what will be remembered about this contest, however. It may go down as the game that Rob Gronkowski was lost for the season with a serious knee injury or, if Patriots fans are feeling more optimistic, the onside kick game.
But the goal in each week’s five takeaways is to go deeper. That’s why I chart the Patriots in coverage, pass rush and drops. Check out this week’s takeaways below.
1. Aqib Talib had his worst game of the season.
Josh Gordon proved to be a handful for New England. Everyone knew the big, fast wide receiver was dangerous coming into the game, of course. If there’s an accomplishment to be had for Gordon going off for 151 yards, seven catches and a touchdown, it’s that the Patriots didn’t allow Gordon to string together his third consecutive 200-yard game.
Talib gave up most of those 151 yards, including Gordon’s 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown. New England left some holes open in their zone coverage, too, which is why the numbers below don’t add up to Campbell’s 391 yards. For the most part, they didn’t bother to cover running backs out of the backfield. Jordan Cameron was also left open a few times too many, especially late in the game.
Check out this week’s charting stats below.
Aqib Talib: 5-7, 141 yards, TD, holding
Steve Gregory: 3-3, 33 yards
Logan Ryan: 2-4, 31 yards
Jamie Collins: 1-2, 21 yards, PBU
Kyle Arrington: 2-4, 19 yards, PBU
Dont’a Hightower: 2-4, 6 yards
Dane Fletcher: 0-1
Alfonzo Dennard: 0-1
Here are the totals on the season:
Arrington: 33-63, 483 yards, 4 TDs, INT, holding penalty
Dennard: 29-60, 439 yards, 2 TDs, INT
Talib: 25-53, 422 yards, 4 INTs, 2 TDs, pass interference penalty, 3 holding penalties
Ryan: 19-40, 237 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs
Hightower: 23-43, 205 yards, TD
Gregory: 14-27, 180 yards, TD, pass interference penalty
Mayo: 14-27, 146 yards
McCourty: 9-16, 114 yards, 2 TDs, INT, holding penalty
Spikes: 12-18, 102 yards, TD, INT
Cole: 8-14, 94 yards, TD, INT
Harmon: 6-9, 73 yards, 2 INTs
Collins: 7-10, 80 yards
Ninkovich: 6-11, 31 yards, pass interference penalty
Chandler Jones: 1-1, 7 yards
Fletcher: 1-6, 5 yards, TD
2. Chris Jones is back in the backfield.
After a few down weeks, Jones was back to pressuring the quarterback on Sunday. Jones had a solid first half. It seemed he benefited from playing three-technique defensive tackle (4-3) rather than five-technique defensive end (3-4). The switch to a 4-3 seemed to make sense for New England, especially going against a team like the Browns who struggle to run the ball.
Rob Ninkovich was his usual dominant self. He was the only Patriots pass rusher to bring Campbell down, though the Browns signal caller got hit often. Perhaps the most entertaining play came on a throwaway from Campbell. Sealver Siliga, who got a surprising number of snaps, playing the one-technique nose tackle position, drove Mitchell Schwartz back about 12 yards. Watch the impressive bull rush below.
Here are this week’s pass rush charting stats:
Rob Ninkovich: 1 sack, 1 QB hit, 9 hurries
Chris Jones: 1 QB hit, 5 hurries
Chandler Jones: 1 QB hit, 4 hurries
Sealver Siliga: 1 QB hit, 2 hurries
Dont’a Hightower: 1 QB hit, 1 hurry
Dane Fletcher: 1 QB hit
Joe Vellano: 1 hurry
Brandon Spikes: 1 hurry
Check out the pass rush charting stats for the season below.
Ninkovich: 6 sacks, 51 hurries, 15 QB hits (72 pressures)
Chandler Jones: 10 1/2 sacks, 43 hurries, 13 QB hits (67 pressures)
Chris Jones: 5 sacks, 16 hurries, 4 QB hits (26 pressures)
Kelly: 2 1/2 sacks, 12 hurries, 2 QB hit (17 pressures)
Hightower: 1 sack, 12 hurries, 4 QB hits (17 pressures)
Vellano: 1 sack, 12 hurries, 3 QB hits (16 pressures)
Buchanan: 2 sacks, 10 hurries, 3 QB hits (15 pressures)
Carter: 1 sack, 6 hurries, 6 QB hits (13 pressure)
Spikes: 8 hurries, 1 QB hit (9 pressures)
Fletcher: 2 sacks, 4 hurries, 1 QB hit (7 pressure)
Collins: 3 hurries, 2 QB hits (5 pressures)
Wilfork: 4 hurries, 1 QB hit (5 pressures)
Mayo: 1 1/2 sacks, 1 hurry, 1 QB hit (4 pressures)
Ryan: 2 sacks, 1 hurry (3 pressures)
Sopoaga: 1 sack, 2 hurries (3 pressure)
Siliga: 2 hurries, 1 QB hit (3 pressures)
McCourty: 1 hurry, 1 QB hit (2 pressures)
Bequette: 1 QB hit (1 pressure)
Gregory: 1 QB hit (1 pressure)
Cole: 1 hurry (1 pressure)
Arrington: 1 hurry (1 pressure)
3. The Patriots see an uptick in drops.
After just one drop in Week 13, New England had a shocking number of bad plays from receivers on Sunday. That, at least partially, explains Tom Brady‘s 20 incompletions.
Check out what I saw from Brady’s incompletions below.
1. Brady overthrows Rob Gronkowski
2. Gronkowski drop
3. Julian Edelman drop
4. Brady in Ahtyba Rubin‘s grasp, throws at LeGarrette Blount’s feet
5. Brady intercepted, Josh Boyce can’t cut in front of D’Qwell Jackson
6. Edelman drop
7. Shane Vereen drop
8. Phil Taylor swats the ball at the line
9. Boyce drop on screen
10. Danny Amendola drop
11. Gronkowski started calling for PI, didn’t end his route
12. Brady throws at Amendola’s feet
13. Edelman has to dive, drops pass
14. Brady bounce passes screen to Amendola
15. Paul Kruger breaks up screen to Vereen
16. Brady throws low to Vereen
17. Brady throws low to Vereen, bounces off his hands
18. Intentional grounding toward Edelman
19. Brady throws at Vereen’s feet
20. Brady spike
So out of those 20 incompletions, seven were drops. Edelman had one and Vereen, Gronkowski, Amendola and Boyce had one apiece. Eight throws were incompletions that can be credited to Brady. The defense made four nice plays and one incompletion was a spike.
That means that Brady had just eight inaccurate passes that went for incompletions. That sounds a lot better than 20.
4. The Patriots limit yardage by running backs.
Out of the 108 yards New England gave up on the ground, 34 were on an end around by Gordon and 27 were on two scrambles by Campbell. That means just 47 yards were let up on 22 carries by the running backs.
This corps of backs isn’t exactly a group of world beaters. Willis McGahee and Fozzy Whittaker entered the game averaging less than three yards per carry. And Cleveland’s offensive line isn’t exactly known for their strong run blocking.
But this was a case of an effortlessly movable force meeting an easily stopped object. And New England’s defense succeeded (except for those runs by Gordon and Campbell). Siliga and Chris Jones played well in the middle of the defense on first glance. Hightower also played well.
5. The Patriots went away from the run.
The Patriots ran the ball just 21 times with 10 coming in the second half. Stevan Ridley and Blount were running well, but New England needed Vereen on the field.
With Gronkowski likely lost for the season, the Patriots may need Vereen on the field for nearly every offensive snap. That could mean seeing some two-back sets with Vereen and either Ridley or Blount.