FOXBORO – Over the past three games, the Patriots defense has given mixed results against the run. Against Carolina, they were solid but got beat by Cam Newton scrambles. Playing Denver, they were permissive but some of that was by design. Against Houston? An embarrassment.
The Patriots defense stands 31st in rushing yards allowed per game (138.2) and they are allowing 4.5 yards per carry. With Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Tommy Kelly all gone for the year, opposing offenses are attacking the middle of the Patriots defense.
NFL stats show that 262 carries have gone between the gaps spanning the offensive left guard to the offensive right tackle.
A total of 57 plays have gone over left guard (4th most in the league) with an average gain of 4.83 (27th). Forty-five plays have been run behind center (8th) with a gain of 3.82 (11th). Twenty-nine plays have gone over right guard (5th) with a gain of 4.56 (22nd) and 45 plays have gone over right tackle (8th) with an average gain of 4.07 (16th).
Teams haven’t run outside on the Patriots as often (30 around left end, 29 around right end). But the results have been bad when they have (7.57 around left end, 31st in the league; 5.62 around right end, 21st).
Now here come the Browns, a team that is decidedly pass-oriented. Cleveland is 27th in rushing yards per game with 82.3.
Over the past six games, they’ve had 30 carries for 97 yards; 16 for 55; 19 for 102; 29 for 73; 15 for 57 and 23 for 83.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski pointed out Wednesday the details behind the numbers: score and the emergence of the air attack with explosive receiver Josh Gordon.
“Some of it has been the situation in-game where we’ve been behind and trying to catch up, so we’ve thrown or had to throw a lot more,” said Chudzinski. “Those would be the previous weeks. This last week [against Jacksonville], a little bit of the same in those situations that we ran the ball a little bit more. But Josh has really developed as a receiver and has grown a lot as the season has gone on, so I think our quarterbacks generally have a lot of confidence in him, and we’ve given him a lot of opportunities to make those plays.”
Chudzinski doesn’t foresee a free-for-all against the Patriots on Sunday, though.
“I see they had some injuries to a number of key players in their front seven, and I think each game is different,” said Chudzinski. “I think you look at Houston, who is an outstanding running team and has been, and obviously I have experience with Carolina [former offensive coordinator], and they played very well against Carolina, and Denver’s a different style as well. But I think the thing about the defense that I see is they make key plays at key times. I think the guys who have stepped in have done a real nice job. This defense is going to be a big challenge for us.”
It would be a nice switch for New England were that to happen.