If you’re a Browns fan perusing Windy City Gridiron, you were probably very happy with how Sunday went.
For most of you, however, that probably wasn’t the case. The Bears were utterly demolished in a 26-6 loss on the road to the Browns in an outing that started with high expectations due to the first career start of rookie quarterback Justin Fields, but ended with many more questions than answers.
It’s difficult to pin a lot on Fields, who wasn’t given much to work with in his starting debut. Plenty went wrong, and although very little went right, let’s take a look and some of the key takeaways from this week’s action.
Let’s face it: if you watched the game, you know that not much needs to be said about the Bears’ offensive performance.
Justin Fields completed just 30 percent of his passing attempts and only threw for 68 yards, and that speaks more to his surroundings than it does himself; that’s how bad the Bears were offensively.
Granted, Fields did have some issues in his starting debut. He appeared to have some instances of holding onto the ball for too long, and he occasionally forced throws to his first read when they were covered. He showed a bit of promise as a runner, but even then he didn’t get nearly enough opportunities to do so.
The primary reason Fields had such a poor statline was because of what was around him: the coaching staff, the offensive line and the receivers.
Fields was massacred to the tune of 9 sacks and 15 quarterback hits, with 4.5 of those sacks coming from Myles Garrett. The All-Pro edge rusher battered Jason Peters all afternoon, consistently making his presence known with his power, diverse pass-rushing technique and athletic ability. Jadeveon Clowney also made his presence felt against Germain Ifedi, notching two sacks off the edge. Both offensive tackles struggled heavily against Cleveland’s talented pass-rushing duo.
The Bears’ offensive line woes followed them to the run game, as well. David Montgomery had just 3.4 yards per carry, and excluding a 16-yard run, he had just two yards per carry on his other nine carries. Along both the interior and off the edge, the Browns were able to penetrate the backfield to the tune of 8 tackles for a loss.
It didn’t help at all that the Bears’ receivers couldn’t get open, either. Allen Robinson was the only receiver with more than one reception all afternoon, and he caught just two passes on six targets. Darnell Mooney caught just one pass, while Cole Kmet added a reception of his own. David Montgomery was the only other player to catch multiple passes, having two receptions for 21 yards. None of the weapons were able to consistently get open, and even if they were able to, the offensive line wouldn’t have been able to let the play develop.
All told, it was a brutal offensive performance in all aspects for the Bears. Practically everything that went wrong, could have.
If there’s one good thing to come out of the Bears’ loss, it was the performance of their defensive line.
Chicago sacked Baker Mayfield five times over the course of the afternoon, putting on consistent pressure against one of the best offensive lines in the league. In particular, the edge-rushing tandem of Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn was able to make their presence felt in Cleveland. The former finished with two sacks, while the latter contributed 1.5 of his own. The duo has gotten off to a hot start, with Mack and Quinn starting off the year with three and four sacks each, respectively. They put consistent pressure on Mayfield when the two of them were on the field, showcasing explosiveness, power and a high motor to penetrate the backfield.
Other Bears defenders were able to make an impact up front, too. Mario Edwards Jr. bulldozed All-Pro guard Joel Bitonio for a sack in the former’s first game back from a two-game suspension. Angelo Blackson pitched in with half a sack, while Akiem Hicks was able to push the pocket effectively. Though a bit hot-and-cold in terms of his play, Roquan Smith led both teams with 9 tackles and had numerous instances where it seemed like he was everywhere on the field.
Some shaky play from Baker Mayfield allowed the Bears to get away with some mistakes in coverage, but said issues that plagued them in their first two games appeared to have hurt them against the Browns on Sunday, too. Miscommunication between cornerbacks and safeties in zone coverage hurt the effectiveness of their defense at times, and streaky play from Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley was too inconsistent to be of any benefit to the Bears.
One player in particular who struggled was Eddie Jackson, whose struggles to open up the year have been well documented. Though a look at the All-22 could provide a better opportunity to diagnose what specifically went wrong, he seemed a split second too late to determine route concepts in coverage and seemed sheepish in run support. The former All-Pro turned a bit of a corner in Week 2, but two of his first three games this season have been subpar, to be polite.
The Browns were able to move the chains efficiently with running back screens, particularly to Kareem Hunt, who had 74 yards on 6 catches. Alec Ogletree in particular seemed to struggle with shedding blocks when offensive linemen accelerated to the second level, and for their struggles on Sunday, Cleveland’s offensive line did a pretty good job of clearing lanes for Hunt after the catch.
All told, the Bears didn’t play poorly on defense, but when your offense is only on the field for just over 20 minutes over the course of a 60-minute football game, your defense is naturally going to get tired. Save for one garbage-time drive, all of the Bears’ defensive drives in the fourth quarter resulted in points for the Browns. Was it a perfect performance? No, but there’s only so much you can do if you’re the defense.
I normally do a three and out section at the end of my day-after notes, but I’m not sure there’s much more I can say that hasn’t already been said this time. Serious changes need to be made.