I started writing these "number based" articles looking at Chicago Bears games because I was intrigued by the snap counts each week. So I'll get the big one out of the way early, Jay Cutler played every play.
He struggled at times and looked rusty, which we all expected, but he also showed resolve by overcoming his mistakes. A less confident player could have easily buckled under the pressure, but Jay Cutler not only persevered, he thrived.
From Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune.
After Tashaun Gipson returned his second interception 44 yards for a touchdown, he completed 14 of his final 18 passes for 161 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 143.5.
It had to be tough to shake off that 2nd interception, but Cutler's make-up allowed him to do just that. His confidence often comes across as arrogance, there were "rumors" of a fractured locker room, and him getting his job back clearly wasn't the popular decision, but Jay just pushes on.
This was a game that Jay Cutler had to win, and he had to put up good numbers in doing so.
Both of Jay's interceptions came on passes he sailed. Balls tend to sail when you don't complete your follow through, and in Jay's case he may not have been completely shifting his weight from his back foot to his front. His front foot is connected to the ankle that kept him out for the last month, so maybe he just had to fight through the rust, and trust his body again.
Jay wasn't only clutch in the 2nd half, but he was at his best on 3rd downs, where the Bears were 9-14 (64%) on the day.
He completed 11 of 12 third-down passes for 152 yards, two touchdowns, seven conversions and a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
Overlooked in all this, is that is was done against a top 10 defense that was 7th against the pass.
Cutler wasn't the only member of the offense to play every snap, as his offensive line also joined him for all 67 plays. The stat sheet says that the Bears gave up two sacks, but my later this week my Sackwatch will show that neither were the fault of the o-line.
The line helped clear the way for Matt Forte and Michael Bush to rush for 171 yards on the ground. Forte's 127 was the most the Browns have allowed any one player this year. Bush only played 7 snaps on the afternoon, but I think he's starting to play better. A healthy one-two punch down the stretch would be a bonus for this offense.
Besides Bush finding his way in this offense, I think 3rd wide out Earl Bennett is as well. he has his second touchdown in as many weeks and totaled 4 catches for 23 yards on 55% of the teams snaps (37/67). The two starting wide outs, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery played 60 and 64 snaps respectively.
Those two now have combined for the most yards, 2,450, in Chicago Bears history by a receiving duo. The targets were again high from Cutler to Marshall, with 13, but it's not like he's not throwing the ball to other receivers. Tight End Martellus Bennett (65 plays) was targeted six times, and he caught all 6 for 71 yards. Jeffery caught all 5 balls thrown his way, and Earl Bennett snagged each pass in his direction.
It's clear that Jeffery is a becoming extremely adept at going up and snatching the ball away, and I'd expect Jay to lean on him more in the last two games. But hopefully not too much, because in an odd statistical anomaly, the Bears now have eight wins and Jeffery hasn't gone over 100 receiving yards in any of them.
Fullback Tony Fiammetta logged 16 snaps, back up tight end Dante Rosario added 13 offensive plays, and Eben Britton also had 13 TE snaps. Rosario also tied for the team lead in special teams snaps with Blake Costanzo, each playing 28 snaps.
Over on the defensive side of the ball, I thought Jeremiah Ratliff played his best game as a Bear. The starting nose tackle was in for 44/58 plays (76%), and he had 3 QB hits, 2 tackles, and a tackle for loss. He was drawing double teams on occasion, and seemed to be clogging up some running lanes.
The defensive lineman with the most defensive snaps was starting DE Shea McClellin with 46. He did not register a single official stat from the NFL, but I also don't recollect him being out of position or manhandled in the game. Corey Wootton, who started at the three technique DT was right behind him with 45 snaps, and he had one tackle.
The other starting defensive end, Julius Peppers, played 44 snaps and only picked up an assisted tackle. But like McClellin, I didn't notice any glaring errors from Peppers yesterday. The Bears' overall run defense was solid.
Stephen Paea came off the bench and only saw 15 plays. He wasn't on the injury report this week, but the Bears may have elected to ease him along with his toe injury. Landon Cohen had 14 snaps to round out the DT rotation.
The d-line had a hand in holding the Cleveland running backs to 76 yards on 16 carries, but so did the linebackers. James Anderson led the team with 11 tackles and Jon Bostic had 5. Neither player left the field on defense. The only other defender to play all 58 snaps was safety Major Wright, who added 5 tackles himself.
Weakside linebacker Khaseem Greene saw action on 38 snaps (68%), and he picked up 4 total tackles. Nickelback Isaiah Frey played 24 snaps with one cold arm.
Corner Zack Bowman, who had two interceptions including the pick-6, played 56/58 plays, and was also credited with 2 passes defended and a tackle. Chicago's other starting CB, Tim Jennings, also played 56 snaps, and he once again shadowed the opposing teams best receiver. This week he kept Cleveland's Josh Gordon mostly in check, while adding 5 tackles.
This week when both Jennings and Bowman sat out a couple plays it was nickel Frey that moved to the outside. That's good for his development as a defensive back. Rounding out the defensive snap counts, starting safety Chris Conte had 57 and back up Craig Steltz had a couple.
The defense held the Browns to 3-9 (33%) on third down conversions, and they only allowed three offensive TDs. Cleveland's 31 points were aided by the two defensive TDs. Even though the Bears didn't pick up a sack, I thought they pressured Browns QB Jason Campbell enough to move him off his spot, and give him something to think about.
What were your thoughts on Jay Cutler and the rest of the offense, the defense, and the overall play time distribution?