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2013 Opponents Preview: New England Patriots

Posted Jul 4, 2013

As the 2013 season approaches, ClevelandBrowns.com looks at the Browns’ regular-season opponents. Today, we highlight the Dec. 8 road game at the New England Patriots.

Browns at Patriots -- Sunday, Dec. 8 -- 1:00 p.m. ET

Storylines:

The Cleveland Browns play three of their five games in December on the road, starting with a matchup against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 8.

When the Browns and Patriots last played, Cleveland earned a 34-14 victory at then-Cleveland Browns Stadium on Nov. 7, 2010. Former Browns running back Peyton Hillis ran for 184 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries, and quarterback Colt McCoy completed 14 of 19 attempts for 174 yards in the victory.

In that win over the Patriots, the Browns’ first since a 19-11 decision on Nov. 12, 2000, the defense generated two fumbles and held Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to 52.8 percent completion and 224 yards.

The Browns are looking for back-to-back wins against the Patriots for the first time since the 1994 season, when they won, 13-6, on Nov. 6, 1994, and followed it up with a 20-13 playoff victory on Jan. 1, 1995. Both games were played at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Stats:

The Patriots finished the 2012 regular season in the top ten in points scored (first, 34.8), yards (first, 427.9), passing yards (fourth, 291.4), and rushing yards (seventh, 136.5). They also finished ninth in both points allowed (20.7) and rushing yards (101.9). All statistics were on a per-game average.

New England converted 444 first downs, as opposed to just 340 for their opponents. They outgained the opposition 6,846 to 5,972 in total yards, as well as 2,184 to 1,630 in rushing yards and 4,662 to 4,342 through the air. New England’s defense generated 37 sacks and forced 25 turnovers, while the offense scored 67 total touchdowns.

Quarterback Tom Brady completed 63 percent of his passes (401 of 637) for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns against eight interceptions last fall. He was sacked 27 times for 182 lost yards, but still finished the year with a quarterback rating of 98.7.

Former Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker was Brady’s top target last year, finishing with 118 catches for 1,354 yards and six touchdowns, but when it came to getting the ball into the end zone, he went to tight end Rob Gronkowski.

A fifth of Gronkowski’s catches went for touchdowns (11 scores, 55 catches).

Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd caught 74 passes for 911 yards and four touchdowns.

Inside linebacker Jerod Mayo led the way with 147 total stops, and his 88 solo tackles were the most on the team. Mayo had more solo tackles than all but one Patriots player -- Brandon Spikes -- had total stops.

Linebacker Rob Ninkovich led the team with eight sacks, and defensive end Chandler Jones added six of his own for a team that registered 37 last season.

Defensive back Devin McCourty collected five interceptions, and Tavon Wilson added four, while Alfonzo Dennard and Steve Gregory each registered three picks. As a team, the Patriots made 20 interceptions last season.

McCourty doubled as a kick returner for the Patriots in 2012. He averaged 24.2 yards over 27 returns, and had a 104-yard touchdown.

Transactions:

Key Additions: The Patriots signed wide receivers Danny Amendola (from St. Louis) and Michael Jenkins (free agent), running back Leon Washington (from Seattle), defensive lineman Tommy Kelly (from Oakland), and re-signed wide receiver Julian Edelman, offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer, cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marquice Cole and linebacker Niko Koutouvides.

Key Losses: Welker (to Denver) and Lloyd (released), running back Danny Woodhead (to San Diego), offensive lineman Donald Thomas (to Indianapolis), and safety Patrick Chung (to Philadelphia).

Draft: The Patriots used five of their seven picks on defensive players in the 2013 NFL Draft. They took outside linebacker Jamie Collins (second round), as well as cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Duron Harmon (third), defensive end Michael Buchanan and inside linebacker Steve Beauharnais (seventh). New England also added wide receivers Aaron Dobson (second) and Josh Boyce (fourth) through the draft.

Familiar Faces:

Browns kicker Shayne Graham spent part of the 2010 season with the Patriots, where he made 12 field goals in eight games.

Browns tight end Dan Gronkowski is the older brother of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. The elder Gronkowski made one start in five games with the Patriots during the 2011 season.

Browns defensive lineman Desmond Bryant went to college at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

Browns defensive line coach Joe Cullen played nose guard for the University of Massachusetts (1986-89), and later coached with the team, first, the running backs (1990), and then, the defensive line (1991).

Patriots tight end Jake Ballard (Springboro), running back James Develin (Dublin), defensive back Nate Ebner (Dublin), offensive lineman Josh Kline (Mason), and punter Zoltan Mesko (Twinsburg) are Ohio natives.

Ballard (The Ohio State University), Ebner (Ohio State), Kline (Kent State University), running back Quentin Hines (The University of Akron), and wide receivers Michael Jenkins (Ohio State), Donald Jones (Youngstown State), Kenbrell Thompkins (University of Cincinnati), and Julian Edelman (Kent State) went to college in Ohio.

Patriots defensive lineman Marcus Benard spent three seasons with the Browns (2009-11), and registered 11 sacks in 25 games. He finished with a rookie-best 3.5 sacks in just six games in 2009, and led the team with 7.5 in 2010.

Running back Brandon Bolden’s grandfather, Frank Pitts, played wide receiver for the Browns from 1971-73.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick compiled a 36-44 record as head coach of the Browns from 1991 to 1995. He took the Browns to the playoffs in 1994, just four seasons removed from a 3-13 finish under Bud Carson and Jim Shofner.

Patriots linebackers coach Thomas “Pepper” Johnson played with the Browns from 1993 to 1995, amassing 5.5 quarterback sacks and two interceptions during his time in Cleveland. Johnson also played his college football at Ohio State.

New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels grew up in Barberton, Ohio, and played football at Canton McKinley High School before starring at John Carroll University.

New England special teams coach Scott O’Brien held the same position with the Browns from 1991-95, where the team led the NFL in special-teams scores (eight) and special-teams scores allowed (zero).

Patriots cornerback coach Josh Boyer is a native of Heath, Ohio, and graduated from Muskingum College. He has served as a graduate assistant at the University of Dayton (2001) and Kent State (2002-03).

History:

The Browns are 12-9-0 all-time against the Patriots, and 5-5-0 in road games. This will be the Browns’ fourth trip to New England since their return to the NFL in 1999, and the Patriots have won each of the previous three meetings.