The Cleveland Brown defense did a good job slowing down the Patriot offense and stifling Tom Brady and the passing game. How they did it was a departure from the textbook way to confuse a quarterback: have guys moving around, disguising what they’re doing before the snap. Instead, the Browns did not move anyone around. In fact, players just kind of stood around. ALL of them. On many occasions, the Browns did not have a single player down in a three-point stance. Sometimes they had one, other times two. Sometimes they showed a base 3-4 look. The pre-snap look that gave the passing game the most fits was the one where all of the players were just standing there, not moving, but not giving Brady any pre-snap looks. The pic in this article shows a good example of the look the Browns gave, in that case, with just one down lineman. After the snap, different players rushed or dropped into coverage, never really duplicating what they did from series to series.
This coming Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brady will get a different look. He will see multiple guys moving before and after the snap. Troy Polamalu will creep up to the line, only to drop back in coverage, and then next time, blitz. I don’t see the Steelers departing from what they’ve done so successfully on defense to play the Patriots, but it will be interesting to see if other teams adopt the Browns’ strategy of having players standing around pre-snap. The NFL is a copycat league, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see this method again. We’ll see if the Pats can adjust to it the next time they see it.