New England Patriots Team Notes

New England Patriots Team Notes

Bill Belichick will face off against the only other team for which he ever served as a head coach when the Cleveland Browns visit Foxborough this weekend. Belichick left New York following the Giants 1990 Super Bowl championship season and took over the reigns in Cleveland, where he worked for five years before being fired after the 1995 season with a 36-44 record.

"It's been almost 10 years," Belichick said when asked about emotional ties to the Browns. "It was a significant part of my career, but it was a long time ago."

Belichick led the Browns to the playoffs in 1994 with an 11-5 mark a year after picking a fight with Browns Nation because he released their native son, quarterback Bernie Kosar, whose skills had diminished evidenced by the fact that he never became a full-time starter elsewhere. But Belichick was vilified in Cleveland for that move and it contributed to the public relations nightmare that followed during the 1995 season when Browns owner Art Modell announced the team's plan to move to Baltimore. Belichick never made that move to Baltimore and instead spent the 1996 season as an assistant in New England under Bill Parcells.

Together, Belichick and Parcells then knocked off the new Baltimore franchise, 46-38, during their AFC Championship season with the Patriots. Belichick, though, has reshaped his image as the Patriots head coach and the Super Bowl ring he now owns has validated his style and ability.

He has, however, struggled as a head coach when taking on teams he used to work for. As a head coach, whether in Cleveland or New England, Belichick has coached against six formers employers -- the Colts, Lions, Broncos, Giants, Browns and Jets -- and he has a winning record against just one, the Colts (5-3). He is 1-3 against Detroit, 1-6 against Denver, 1-2 against the Giants, 1-1 against the Browns and 3-4 against the Jets.

October jinx
With a win this week the Patriots would accomplish something they haven't accomplished since 1978 -- an undefeated October, a month that was downright frightful last year when the Patriots finished 0-3. In 1999, the Patriots finished above .500 in the month with a 3-2 mark. But since Bill Parcells left New England along with Belichick, that is the only season the Patriots finished above .500 in October. This year, they play only three games in the month and with a 2-0 mark to date are assured of finishing the month above .500. In the 10 previous years, New England is a combined 16-25 (.390) in October while their overall record during that same span is 84-76 (.525).

INTeresting
The Patriots have 11 interceptions this season, the second most in the AFC behind Kansas City (13) and the third most in the NFL behind Minnesota (16) and the Chiefs. The Browns have thrown nine interceptions, which is tied for the most in the AFC and tied for fifth in the NFL.

Homecomings
This week's game will feature two former Boston College running backs. New England's Mike Cloud preceded William Green as BC's top running back before being drafted in the second round in 1999. Green was a first round pick last year.

Jones in hot water
Offensive tackle Kenyatta Jones, who remains on the physically unable to perform list, was expected to start his 21-day practice window on Tuesday and possibly even be activated by game time. But after being arrested Tuesday at his Waltham home and arraigned in Wrentham (Mass.) District Court Wednesday on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (hot water), assault to maim, and mayhem, the start of his season may be on hold.

The victim was identified as Mark Paul, an administrative assistant to Jones and another Patriots player, according to the AP. The victim was hospitalized and later released after suffering burns on his back, shoulder and forehead.

Jones is due back in court Dec. 9 for a pretrial conference and posted $3,500 bail. Bill Belichick declined comment during his Wednesday press conference. Jones pleaded not guilty.

Jones is being counted on to at least provide experienced depth at tackle behind current starter Tom Ashworth. Ashworth replaced Adrian Klemm, who is now on injured reserve, as the starter, but the only reserve tackle on the active roster is inexperienced Brandon Gorin.

Jones started 11 games last season at right tackle and was mostly inconsistent. He underwent double knee surgery in the offseason and has been slow to recover. This latest incident surely doesn't help his status on a team that is built around mostly high-character players.

Fortunately for the Patriots, Jones was not active and back in his starting role, which means the distraction from the incident should be minimal.

Lawless
The Patriots defensive backs have played a ton of man-to-man coverage through the first seven weeks and have answered the challenge with string play, but they may find themselves in more zone coverage this week, especially if Ty Law is unable to play as appears to be the case. Without Law, the Patriots may have trouble matching up man-to-man against Cleveland's talented receiving corps that includes Quincy Morgan, Dennis Northcutt, Kevin Johnson and Andre' Davis as well as running back Jamel White, who is a threat out of the backfield.

Since they will likely be in more zone coverages, they may not be able to load up against the run as they have in past weeks, which could leave them susceptible to Cleveland's ground attack that features William Green, who is expected to play with a shoulder injury. Green has 559 rushing yards through seven weeks, but the Patriots have allowed just 90 yards per game, good for seventh best in the NFL. The Browns have been inconsistent offensively.

With Law likely out, Patriots CB Tyrone Poole could be chasing Kevin Johnson, the Browns leading receiver, over the field whether in man or zone coverage. Johnson has 35 catches and is a threat in the red zone. Poole has had a solid year and has shown excellent recovery skills on plays where it has looked as though he might be beaten. His two interceptions are tops among Patriots corners.

Looking at the Browns D
New England will look to attack Cleveland's inconsistent run defense, although don't expect the type of big plays that LaDainian Tomlinson and Jamal Lewis picked up against the Browns run defense. The Patriots don't have that type of back and Cleveland hasn't allowed those types of runs outside of those two games.

But the Browns are ranked 27th against the run and first against the pass. They allow just 5.27 yards per pass attempt and have intercepted seven passes while allowing only four passing touchdowns. Opponents have completed just 58 percent of passes against the Browns pass defense. Cleveland's defense hasn't been its problem outside of the two games where it was hit hard by big plays in the running game. The defense is ranked sixth overall despite allowing 5.1 yards per rush, a number skewed by Tomlinson and Lewis.

A matchup to watch is Patriots RB Kevin Faulk vs. Browns LB Andra Davis. Davis is Cleveland's leading tackler and is coming into his own on a team that replaced its entire starting linebacking group this past offseason. Faulk is the leader of the Patriots running back committee with 76 carries for 301 yards (4 yards per carry).

Another one is Patriots RT Tom Ashworth vs. Browns DE Courtney Brown. Brown has finally emerged as a pass rushing threat and leads Cleveland with six of the team's 12 sacks. Ashworth has held up well since replacing Adrian Klemm in the starting lineup and after facing the likes of Kevin Carter, Jevon Kearse and Michael Strahan, now faces another difficult challenge. The Patriots have taken more shots downfield of late and Ashworth will have to keep Brown out of the backfield to keep those options open.

By the Numbers
3 - The number of touchdown passes allowed by the Patriots this season, tying them with the Jets and Giants for the league lead in that category.

Quote to Note
"I don't think we've overcome anything. I just think we've proven that from top to bottom this football team has good football players." -- Linebacker Tedy Bruschi on his team's injury woes.

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