The Cleveland Browns are the only winless team remaining in the NFL, and they’ll be massive underdogs this Sunday against a New England Patriots team that will have the services of quarterback Tom Brady for the first time this season.
But despite their 0-4 record, the Browns have not been pushovers. They’ve kept it close in three of their four losses, losing one game in overtime and blowing fourth-quarter leads in two others.
Here’s a quick look at what Cleveland brings to the table:
THE SWISS ARMY KNIFE
The Browns boast one of the league’s most exciting and intriguing players in converted quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
The former Ohio State star is in his first season as a full-time wide receiver, though the Browns, who are not known for having great stability under center, still line him up to take snaps from time to time.
“He’s made some spectacular plays already this season on the deep balls, going up and taking it away from defenders, short catch-and-run plays, has thrown the ball, run the ball from the quarterback or Wildcat position, however you want to look at it, so he’s a very dynamic player,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
“As you know, (he’s) very fast. … He has got tremendous speed and good size, a hard guy to tackle, a very explosive player and versatile.”
Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia concurred, calling Pryor “another really complex guy to try to defend.”
Pryor, who worked out for New England last year but did not sign, has caught 19 passes this season for 290 yards and one touchdown. His breakout game came two weeks ago, when he racked up 144 receiving yards on eight catches while also rushing four times for 21 yards and one score in an overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins.
While Pryor might be the Browns’ most dynamic offensive weapon, he’s far from their only one. Running back Isaiah Crowell enters Week 5 ranked second in the NFL in rushing yards (394) and first in yards per carry (6.5).
Crowell also ranks fourth among NFL rushers in first downs with 17, and he and Pryor have combined to score five of Cleveland’s seven touchdowns this season.
“I mean, you’re talking about one of the best backs in the league,” Patricia said. “This guy is an explosive runner, he’s got good vision, he’s got really good feet and balance. If you look at his burst and his ability to get through the line of scrimmage with the power and the acceleration that he hits the hole, it’s very impressive. You see him really kind of fit through some tight spaces very quickly.
“They do a great job in the run game with both the scheme and the gap system as well as the zone system to really be able to get the ball downhill in a very effective and quick manner. This is really a very good back.”
The Browns also have a productive third-down back in Duke Johnson, who’s averaging 6.2 yards per carry this season.
THE BIG BOYS
Up front, the Browns employ one of the NFL’s better left tackle-guard combos in Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio. Both have been starters since their Cleveland debuts, and Thomas has been a first-team All-Pro in six of the last seven seasons.
“He and Bitonio over there on the left side, that’s probably as good a combination of two guys playing together as we’ll see,” Belichick said. “They’re both very good run blockers, good pass blockers, have a good level of experience and they’re really solid players for them. Joe Thomas has been one of the top left tackles in the league pretty much since he came into the league, almost his whole career, and he does a really good job.”
Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images