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Browns coach Hue Jackson calls New England's Bill Belichick the greatest, but concedes nothing in Sunday's "chess match"

BEREA -- Browns coach Hue Jackson was peppered Wednesday with questions about Patriots counterpart Bill Belichick.

BEREA — Browns coach Hue Jackson was peppered Wednesday with questions about Patriots counterpart Bill Belichick.
That’s only natural. Belichick got his first head coaching job in Cleveland in 1991 and is headed to the Hall of Fame because of four Super Bowl titles with New England.
Jackson said all the right things, including agreeing that Belichick is the greatest coach of all time. But he didn’t concede anything in the personal matchup that will be among the top storylines Sunday when the Patriots visit FirstEnergy Stadium.
Jackson is the play caller on offense, and Belichick made his name as a defensive mastermind.
“I’m used to dictating the game and I’m sure he’s used to taking the game away, so it’s a good chess match,” Jackson said.
Four games into his Cleveland career, the Browns are a running team. They lead the NFL with 149.3 rushing yards a game.
Isaiah Crowell has 386 yards and ranks second to Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott with 412. Duke Johnson has added 156.
One of the qualities that separate Belichick is his ability to take away the opponent’s greatest strength.
“He’s going to try to sell out to stop the run game,” left tackle Joe Thomas said. “We’ve sprinkled in some good passing, too, but we’re a run-first outfit right now. We can expect them to come up with some big-time wrinkles so we have to throw the ball.”
Jackson agreed his offense must be balanced. But he didn’t appreciate the assumption Belichick will be able to stop the run.
“You can’t just do one thing,” Jackson said. “We have to be able to throw the ball, and we have to be able to run it.
“They’ve been very good at it and we have great respect for them and what they do, but we’ve got to go be who we are and let the chips fall where they may.”
Jackson isn’t intimidated by matching wits with a coach commonly referred to as a genius. He said “I don’t feel that way” when asked what makes Belichick so difficult to prepare to face.
“He’s one of the best head coaches there are and so they know how to defend teams and take away teams’ strengths and go expose your weaknesses everywhere,” Jackson said. “So what we have to do is play our best football game of the year. Our guys have been getting better, but we’ve got to continue to grow and this is a really good test for our team. And I think we’ll be ready to play.”
The improvement in the run game from last season is staggering. Then-coordinator John DeFilippo struggled to install a scheme and failed to establish the run until the final weeks of the season, as the Browns finished the year ranked 22nd at 95.6 a game.
Jackson said early on his team would be able to run the ball and has fulfilled that promise. The Browns are averaging 5.7 a carry, with Crowell first in the league at 6.43 and Johnson next at 6.24.
“You have to give most of the credit to Hue Jackson and the schemes that he is coming up with from week to week, putting us in position to run the ball against different fronts,” Thomas said. “You look at what he makes defenses try to do, they have to protect and defend every play we have because one play he is putting Terrelle Pryor back in the backfield and he is running the read option. The next play, Terrelle is in the backfield running a pass play or a naked (bootleg). The next play we are running Crow at you. The next play we are throwing the ball on a swing pass to Duke.
“He is able to quickly identify what they are trying to do to stop us, and then we are able to come up with a way to defeat their second and third plan.”
The emphasis on the run has been even greater since rookie quarterback Cody Kessler became the starter in Week 3. So Belichick will do everything he can to put pressure on Kessler to carry the offense.
“But it also puts the pressure on us,” Thomas said. “Because you can’t just accept the fact they’re going to try to take away your run game and not try to still run the ball.
“We’ll just have to try to come up with new wrinkles to try to be able to attack whatever their game plan’s going to be to take it away.”
Belichick said Cleveland’s “explosive” run game shows the quick impact made by Jackson.
“They have a lot of different ways to run it,” he said on a conference call with Browns media. “They have multiple schemes, zone schemes, gap schemes. They do shifting, motion, unbalanced line, try to create different alignment problems for the defense, different force problems for the defense.
“But in the end it’s all about fundamentals. It’s a good fundamental team. They block well, they’re very good at double-team blocks, they create movement on double-teams, do a good job of pulling, the backs run downhill. This will be a big challenge for us.”
The Patriots have been to the playoffs 13 of the last 15 years, including six trips to the Super Bowl. The Browns have never won a Super Bowl and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2002.
“We all are envious of what they have. I know I am,” Jackson said. “I want our organization to model that someday, that’s what we’re chasing. They’ve done it as well as anybody in the National Football League.”
Which is why many call Belichick, who’s 249-124, the greatest coach in NFL history.
“I second that,” Jackson said. “He’s as good as there is. Obviously, his track record proves that.
“So we have great respect for their team, for their coaches. But we’ve got a game to play and who knows what can happen in a three-hour period. You’ve got to go play the game, and we’ll find out.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or [email protected] Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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