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What to Watch For: Patriots-Browns

Posted Nov 3, 2010

The Browns return home for the first of back-to-back games against an AFC East Division foe, starting with Sunday’s contest versus the New England Patriots.

When the Browns step onto the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium Sunday afternoon, they will be looking to break a four-game losing streak against the New England Patriots.

The Browns last defeated the Patriots on November 12, 2000 by a 19-11 count. Since that time, the Patriots have won four consecutive games, 27-16 on December 9, 2001, 9-3 on October 26, 2003 and 34-17 on October 7, 2007 all in New England and 42-15 on December 5, 2004 in Cleveland.

The Browns are 11-9-0 all-time against the Patriots, including a 6-4-0 mark in home games.

The last time these teams met, the Patriots jumped out to a 20-0 lead before the Browns trimmed the deficit in half on Derek Anderson’s 21-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. However, Benjamin Watson’s second receiving touchdown of the day and a 15-yard fumble return for a score sealed the 17-point win for New England.

Individually, quarterback Tom Brady completed 22-of-38 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. Watson caught six passes for 107 yards and the two scores, while former Patriots and Browns wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth hauled in four receptions for 65 yards and a 34-yard score.

Braylon Edwards led the Browns with six catches for 110 yards.

As the game unfolds, here are several things to keep an eye on:

Two-time Pro Bowler Joshua Cribbs needs two return touchdowns to pull into a second place tie with Dante Hall and former Brown Eric Metcalf for second on the NFL’s all-time list. Cribbs is three return touchdowns behind Chicago’s Devin Hester and former Washington Redskins kick returner Brian Mitchell for first all-time.

With 67 total return yards against the Patriots, Cribbs will pass Ron Smith (8,710) for 11th place all-time.

Cribbs is currently the NFL record holder for most kickoff return touchdowns with eight and is tied for the most against one team. He has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Kicker Phil Dawson continues his climb up the Browns’ all-time scoring list. With three field goals and three points-after-touchdown in a 30-17 Browns win over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints two weeks ago, Dawson became just the third Browns player ever to reach 1,000 points for his career.

Dawson, who has scored 1,006 points since 1999 and recently broke the Browns’ career field goals record, trails only fellow kickers, the late Pro Football Hall of Famer, Lou Groza (1,349 points) and Don Cockroft (1,080) on the team’s all-time scoring list.

In his career, Dawson has played in six career games against the Patriots. He is 9-of-10 on field goal attempts and a perfect 6-of-6 on extra points.

Linebacker David Bowens has played against the Patriots 15 times and spent the majority of his career in the same division as a member of the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. Bowens has totaled 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble against New England.

In the Browns’ first road win of the season, Bowens returned two interceptions for touchdowns. He became the first Brown to do so since Bob Franklin accomplished the feat on December 11, 1960. He also tied the team’s record for most interceptions returned for touchdowns in a single-season.

Bowens, who is tied for the league lead in interception return yards, was just the third linebacker in NFL history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a game. Former San Francisco 49er Ken Norton Jr. (at St. Louis on October 22, 1995) and current Kansas City Chief Derrick Johnson (at Denver on January 3, 2010) are the only other linebackers to achieve that mark. All three returned the two interceptions for touchdowns in road games.

Running back Peyton Hillis leads the Browns with 460 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 104 carries. While averaging 4.4 yards-per-attempt, Hillis also has 27 receptions for 193 yards and one touchdown. He is the Browns’ second-leading receiver and completed one pass for 13 yards on a throwback play to quarterback Colt McCoy against the Saints.

Hillis’ 36 points put him in a ninth-place tie on the NFL’s scoring list among non-kickers this season. He became the first Browns player to score a touchdown in five straight games since Earnest Byner’s six-game streak during the 1985 season and is seventh in the NFL with five rushing scores.

Second-year linebacker Marcus Benard has played in just 12 games during his NFL career. However, he has made an impact on quarterbacks around the league in that time by registering eight sacks for 42 lost yards. He leads the Browns with 4.5 sacks this season and had one for an eight-yard loss against Saints signal-caller Drew Brees two weeks ago.

Watson will be facing his former team Sunday. Before joining the Browns this off-season, Watson spent the first six years of his NFL career with the Patriots, who chose him with the 32nd overall pick in the 2004 Draft.

Watson had 167 receptions for 2,102 yards and 20 touchdowns in his time with the Patriots and is currently leading the Browns with 30 receptions, 336 yards and two touchdown catches. He averages 11.2 yards-per-catch.

Brady has completed 147-of-225 passes for 1,602 yards and 12 touchdowns against four interceptions this season. Those 147 completions have been spread out to 13 different receivers.

Earlier this season, Brady led the Patriots to a 41-14 win over the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. With the win, he became the fastest quarterback to reach 100 career wins in the Super Bowl era, which started in 1966. The 11th starting quarterback to register 100 wins, Brady did so in 131 games, eight faster than Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana.

In 11 seasons, Brady has completed 2,819 passes for 32,446 yards, more than any quarterback in Patriots history. He has 30 game-winning efforts in the fourth quarter which either negated an opponent’s lead or broke a tie.

Wide receiver Wes Welker has responded nicely after off-season surgery. Welker leads the Patriots with 40 catches and has turned those receptions into 319 yards and three touchdowns. He has also returned four punts for 27 yards.

Welker, who is looking for his fourth consecutive season with 100 catches and 1,000 yards, has an NFL-leading 386 catches since the 2007 season. In 2009, he caught 123 passes, which is tied for the second-most in a single-season in NFL history.

Linebacker Jerod Mayo, one of New England’s two defensive captains, is leading not only the Patriots, but the entire NFL with 94 total tackles. He has registered 58 solo stops, 36 assists, one sack and a fumble recovery through seven games. With 17 tackles against the Minnesota Vikings last week, Mayo now has four straight games with ten or more stops.

The Browns are 2-5 heading into their first game after the bye week. They are coming off of a 30-17 win against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome. The Patriots are 6-1 after a 28-18 home win over the Vikings last Sunday afternoon.

CONNECTIONS

Browns head coach Eric Mangini, assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Brad Seely, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll were all part of the New England Patriots’ staff during the team’s run to three Super Bowl championships in the 2000s. Defensive line coach Bryan Cox was a linebacker on the Patriots’ 2001 Super Bowl-winning team.

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 defensive line 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.

Watson, offensive lineman Billy Yates (2004-08), running back Thomas Clayton (part of 2010), kicker Phil Dawson (practice squad in 1998), quarterback Brett Ratliff (practice squad in 2010), punter Reggie Hodges (practice squad in 2008) and tight end Alex Smith (2009 off-season) all played for the Patriots.

Patriots defensive lineman Gerard Warren played with the Browns from 2001-2004. Defensive backs Leigh Bodden (2003-07) and Bret Lockett (2009 training camp) were Browns before joining the Patriots. Both players are on Injured Reserve.

Running back Eric Kettani (Mentor/Lake Catholic High School), who is on the Reserve/Military List, wide receiver Taylor Price (Hilliard/Darby/Ohio University), linebacker Shawn Crable (Massillon/Washington), quarterback Brian Hoyer (Cleveland/St. Ignatius), offensive lineman Matt Light (Greenville), defensive lineman Mike Wright (Cincinnati/Purcell) and punter Zoltan Mesko (Twinsburg) are from Ohio.

Wide receiver Julian Edelman, much like Cribbs, played quarterback for Kent State University.

Patriots practice squad defensive back Ross Ventrone is the younger brother of Browns defensive back Ray Ventrone, who began his NFL career in New England.

MEDIA

Fans can watch Sunday's game at 1:00pm ET on local CBS affiliate WOIO-TV 19. Bill Macatee (play-by-play) and Rich Gannon (color analyst) will provide the coverage.

The game is also available along the Browns Radio Network with Jim Donovan, Doug Dieken and Jamir Howerton on the call. The Countdown to Kickoff pregame show hosted by Mike Snyder and Mike Pagel begins at 11:30am. The Browns Radio Network’s flagship station is 100.7 FM/WMMS.

Fans can also get up-to-the-minute information by following the Browns on Twitter at www.twitter.com/OfficialBrowns or get sideline updates from Howerton at www.twitter.com/Jamir2010Browns.