Inside the numbers, comparing 2012 and '13

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
4:51
PM ET
The NFL season has reached the three-quarter pole, which is always a good time to compare one season to another.

And a look at the numbers from 2012 to 2013 shows in many ways the Browns are the same team they were a year ago after 12 games (see chart). They also show why the defense's overall ranking of fourth is not a fair reflection of how the Browns play, because the defense has two glaring numbers that show it gives back much of what it gains.

Offensively the Browns have improved four percent in yards, and six places in overall ranking.

They are not running the ball as well as they did year ago (down 14 percent), but have improved throwing it -- though the increase could be attributed to the fact they have passed 84 more times than a year ago.

The yards per attempt is down, the third-down conversion is up. But only a little in both cases.

And the Browns' scoring is virtually the same in the current Rob Chudzinski-Norv Turner-multiple quarterbacks season as it was in the Pat Shurmur-Brad Childress-Brandon Weeden season of 2012.

The view of the defense depends, as coordinator Ray Horton might say, on which stats a person decides are most important.

The team has reduced its yards per game by 16.5 percent and its rushing yards by 14.4 percent. The improvement in the rushing defense is real. The Browns haven't stopped the run since their return in 1999 -- until this season.

The Browns are giving up more passing yards per game than a year ago at this time, but fewer yards per attempt.

The problem comes on third down and red zone defense.

The Browns' defense was 10th on third down a year ago (37.3 percent). It now is 28th (41.6).

The red zone defense has also gone the wrong way, with teams scoring 64.7 percent of the time on the Browns this season as opposed to 54.1 percent a year ago.

Those givebacks affect the scoring total as well -- despite improving from 23rd to fourth overall in defense, the Browns have dropped in scoring defense. They've dropped from 16th in 2012 to 19th (22.1 points per game to 24.8), an increase of 10.8 percent per game.

The most telling number about the change in the team from 2012 to 2013 comes in the won-lost record.

It is unchanged at 4-8.

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter

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