The WCG staff ran through what we think the Chicago Bears need to do this week to pull off the upset against the Cleveland Browns.
Josh Sunderbruch: The Bears do not train to be merciful in Lake Forest. Mercy is for the weak. Here, in Chicago, or on the road: A team confronts you, they are the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy. They need to score first, score often, no mercy!
I’m digging Josh’s “theme” keys this year! And RZ seems to have taken the cue on his as well.
Robert Zeglinski: I want to talk about the Browns on Sunday afternoon. They’re bigger, stronger, and on paper, they’re just better and they know it, too.
I want to tell the Bears something that they may not know: the Browns don’t know your heart. They don’t know what you can do. They know who you are. And that means a whole hell of a lot more.
Patti Curl: The Browns will be down Jarvis Landry and Odell may not be 100% if he plays. This game will be about stopping Nick Chubb. So throw my fantasy team under the bus and spend plenty of time in base defense where the Bears can have their best 11 defenders on the field.
Jack R Salo: Win the turnover battle. Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield threw the second-most interceptions in 2019, then followed up in 2020 with much better decision-making. He’s still prone to throw a couple gimmies, so don’t drop the INTs.
On offense, take a couple early deep shots to get the defense to respect it. Then Justin Fields opens the playbook up for more shotgun run-options. They may not work right away but if you stick with them, the primary read will lose discipline eventually.
Aaron Leming: Playing clean and scoring points. The Browns roster is stacked, yet they have not been playing up to their potential so far. A big reason why? Some very untimely turnovers. I truly believe the Browns are a better overall team but they are one making a lot of costly mistakes. The best thing the Bears can do for themselves is to win the turnover battle and stay away from costly penalties. Their offense should be able to move the ball again but after 14 drives in opponents territory through two games, the Bears offense has just 27 offensive points to show for it. Simply put, the Bears need to play their best game of the year if they hope to come out with the win.
ECD: The Bears’ front seven on defense will be facing, arguably, the best O-line in the league. “The Union” has done a great job of protecting Baker Mayfield and opening lanes for Nick Chubb. However, the Browns will also be without their best receiver (Jarvis Landry), and their top threat remaining in TE Austin Hooper hasn’t lived up to his big contract. While Odell Beckham Jr. is returning after tearing his ACL last season, I don’t think he’ll be anywhere close to the level we’re accustomed to seeing. I think the secondary should hold up O-K against the receivers available to the Browns on Sunday.
The biggest keys will be 1) force Baker Mayfield to continue making bad decisions and 2) set Justin Fields up for success with balanced play calling. The Browns defense hasn’t contained the QB runs well at all. And that’s despite having perhaps the best pass rushing tandem in the league between M. Garrett and J. Clowney. Use Justin Fields’s complete athletic profile to its fullest capacity. He’s already shown a willingness to go deep early and often. It’s time for Matt Nagy to unleash Justin Fields.
The Bears will face a tough customer in the Browns this weekend. They’re also a very beatable team. Just don’t coach to “not lose” the game. Coach to win the game.
Bill Zimmerman: Let’s just start off by tempering expectations. When rookie QBs make their first start on the road, the results usually aren’t good. Just the last two seasons alone, rookie QBs (so far) are 2-5 in their first starts on the road and one of those wins (Mac Jones) came against Zach Wilson. Justin Fields is going to have his work cut out for him against a very strong Cleveland Browns squad.
This game is going to come down to the ground game on both sides of the ball. If the Bears D can stop a potent tandem in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt while having success running the ball on offense with David Montgomery, they are going to be able to control the clock and put Fields in a position to convert short third downs rather than put Fields in 3rd and long situations where he’s going to be forced to try to do too much. Defensively, if you cut off the Browns rushing attack and force Baker to have to throw in obvious situations, you can potentially put him in a position to make mistakes, which he’s still prone to do.
Sam Householder: Unless the Bears can rip a page out of their own history books and replicate 2017 when rookie Mitch Trubisky made his first road start in Baltimore and the Bears held the Ravens out of the endzone, scored on defense and ran the ball 50 times, this is going to be tough sledding.
With that said, the game plan should probably be to run it 50 times and only throw it 17 times. The defense definitely has to build on its performance last week and slow down Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: Like everyone else, I agree that the Bears need to slow down Cleveland’s running attack to even have a chance. Mayfield is coming into his own, but if the Browns are successfully pounding the rock their offense is near unstoppable. The Bears will also need to figure out how to help their nickel spot or the Browns will just run OBJ, Rashard Higgins, WR/RB Demetric Felton, etc. at Duke Shelley all day long.
On offense I want to see the game in Fields’ hands. Let him bootleg, let him do some RPOs, and give him plenty of read/options. Cleveland will probably expect the Bears to play a run heavy/slow down game, so Nagy should flip it and let Fields shine.
Now it’s your turn. What are your keys to the Bears vs Browns game?