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Browns-Patriots: Five keys

Posted Dec 6, 2013

Browns Senior Editor Vic Carucci breaks down the five keys for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

>>Use minimum pass-rushers to generate maximum pressure on Tom Brady. The Browns’ pass rush showed some signs of life last week against Jacksonville. It produced two sacks and there were some hits on Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne. But it wasn’t enough. Henne generally operated with too much comfort, especially in leading the 80-yard drive that resulted in the winning touchdown with 40 seconds left. Brady can obliterate a defense that pressures him well, let alone one that gives him the luxury of time to find open receivers. The Browns have to figure out a way to get to Brady with as few pass-rushers as possible, so that they have the maximum amount of defenders available in coverage. This would be a good time for outside linebackers Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard, and Barkevious Mingo to win the majority of their one-on-one battles and attack Brady from the edges.

>>Find a way to contain Rob Gronkowski. You don’t stop this guy. At best, you try to contain him. Gronkowski can utilize his tremendous size, speed and athleticism to overwhelm any defender who tries to cover him one-on-one. That’s why most Patriot opponents assign multiple defenders to him, with two getting as physical as possible with him off the line of scrimmage similar to how a punt-coverage “gunner” is handled. It doesn’t generally work that well. Gronk feasts on physicality because he is so much bigger and stronger than everyone else. He often uses it to gain more separation, which leads to big plays.

>>Jason Campbell finishes the game … and avoids turnovers. The good news is that Campbell – and not newly acquired Caleb Hanie or Alex Tanney – will be able to start against the Patriots after receiving medical clearance from the concussion he suffered against Pittsburgh on Nov. 24. The Browns will at least have his experience and poise to deal with what likely will be extremely difficult circumstances facing a strong pass rush in a hostile environment. Hopefully, they’ll have them for the entire game. Campbell already had dealt with back and ribs problems before suffering the concussion. The offensive line is allowing too many sacks and hits on quarterbacks. It needs to step up to keep Campbell healthy and avoid putting the game in the hands of one of his far-less-experienced backups. Campbell also must help his own cause by operating with a sense of urgent efficiency while getting the ball out of his hand as quickly as possible.

>>Continue to make an honest effort to run the ball. The Browns’ running game was fairly solid against the Jaguars. Willis McGahee ran for an average of 4.1 yards per carry as he combined with Chris Ogbonnaya, and Fozzy Whittaker to produce 92 yards. The Patriots, who have been crushed by injuries to the middle of their defense, rank next-to-last in the NFL against the run, so it is reasonable think they could have some decent success on the ground. Of course, that presumes they don’t fall into too big a hole early on that forces them into a pass-heavy mode.

>>Be flawless on special teams. This should be standard operating procedure, regardless of the opponent. But it is particularly true against the strongest team on the Browns’ schedule. There is virtually no margin for error against the Patriots. And the Browns have to achieve perfection in all phases of their kicking game to have a prayer of being competitive in this game. No turnovers. No silly penalties.

>>Carucci’s Call is presented by Revol Wireless. Come Save With Us.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.

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