Browns aiming to play mistake-free football, capitalize vs. Patriots

The New England Patriots are bringing the league's top-ranked defense to Sunday's meeting with the Browns in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

The Browns can't quite say the same about their offense, which ranks 13th in rushing yards per game and 16th in passing yards per game through seven weeks. That's still in the upper half of the NFL, which is encouraging, especially when one might need to search for reasons for encouragement against a team that has resembled a juggernaut more than any other NFL team in 2019.

The Patriots are far from unbeatable, though, and as the Browns' staff spent the week preparing for New England, they realized something: There will be opportunities, and they will come with resistance.

"They are as good as anybody in staying in phase with your receivers and making you make contested plays," Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken said Thursday. "If you do, then you will have success. You will get some matchups in your favor, you just got to take advantage of them and make the plays down the field."

Matchups have been at the center of discussion involving the Browns' offense for much of 2019. That will happen when you boast the weapons Cleveland has on its roster.

Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Patriots Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey

Matchups have also been a hurdle for the Browns' offense, resulting in an occasional quiet week for Odell Beckham Jr. and questions about the offense's struggles to reach a high gear.

Statistically, this isn't the week for that to happen. But the Browns are coming off a bye week, having an extra week to prepare for the Patriots, and have been good off the bye week when Freddie Kitchens is calling the plays.

He'll be doing that Sunday, when the Browns get those aforementioned favorable matchups. They'll just have to capitalize on them.

"We've got to figure out a way to make contested catches," Browns receiver Jarvis Landry said. "They hold, they grab, they're real scrappy and it seems not to get called. But we understand that and we've got to make plays regardless." 

While playing alongside his best friend Beckham, Landry has set a new single-game high for receiving yards, but he's also experienced his own share of frustration. One would guess that with Beckham sharing the field and attracting the most attention, Landry should be in line for a highly productive year. 

He's having a good year so far, but he explained Thursday it's not that simple.

He's having a good year so far, but he explained Thursday it's not that simple.

"I'm just trying to play as fast as I can," Landry said. … "My job could be running the safety out of the play so somebody else can catch the ball. So if I'm taking two guys, somebody else should be one-on-one and they win the matchup, they get the ball, we score a touchdown or get the first down and we keep on going like that strategically."

We'll see how New England guards Beckham, and whether Bill Belichick will send the Patriots' No. 2 corner and a third defensive back to double Beckham while leaving Stephon Gilmore to cover Landry. The game is, of course, more complicated than simply Receiver A vs. Cornerback X, though, and as Landry repeated Thursday, the Browns will have to win schematically more than just individually.

It'll have to be approached with a play-by-play pace in order to maximize Baker Mayfield's talents and allow him become comfortable in a high-pressure game. At 2-4, the Browns could really use a win in an effort to start a run out of the bye and will board the plane with victory as their sole goal of the trip.

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