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Browns Beat Bears in a Brawl–Reality Check

Defensive titans matched up, and while Chicago has made progress on offense since the last contest with Cleveland, they stumbled when it came to putting the game away.

NFL: DEC 17 Bears at Browns Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns got the better of the Chicago Bears the last time these two teams faced off, with Justin Fields taking 9 sacks in his first NFL start. That was before Braxton Jones, Darnell Wright, and DJ Moore came to town. Mark Sanchez in the booth adds something. I’m not sure if it’s a good something or a bad something, honestly, but I’m always amused when I remember that he was a quarterback for the Bears for a little while there.

Defenses Hold Strong

Cleveland chose to receive, somewhat interestingly taking a page out of the Eberflus playbook (not something I thought I would ever type). Both teams succeeded in bringing pressure and breaking up plays, and while there was some energy on offense a few times, there were under 40 yards of net offense across the first five drives.

Moar Moore!

Justin Fields clearly appreciated the effort of the defense but felt the need to contribute to the battle of field position. Why not? Moore made a great catch early but a dime from Justin Fields was dropped by Robert Tonyan, reminding everyone of why it made sense for Poles to pay Kmet. That’s rough. The solution? Just go back to Moore. Still, the pressure was just too much finally and Fields made one smart throwaway but finally took a sack. Good on Teven Jenkins to recover the fumble.

Tez Effect

Montez Sweat clearly decided that the Browns weren’t going to sack Fields without an answer, and so he delivered a beautiful sack against Flacco. In fact, #98 led a defensive stand that involved a little bit of everything for Chicago’s defense. On Chicago’s next drive, Emerson thought he was going to get a pick, but he didn’t account for the heat coming off Justin’s pass and Mooney’s ability to play defender. It was a bad decision by JF1, but #11 comes through to break up the interception. This was a drive where Sanchez said he wanted Fields to run more against one of the top defenses in the country, which reminded me of why I don’t usually listen to the author of the Butt Fumble.

Ejax Sighting!

This was a whole-team interception, but Eddie Jackson gets the stat. Pressure up the middle forces a bad throw from Flacco and he throws the ball straight to Eddie Jackson. It was almost a Pick-6, but it still gave the Bears first-and-goal.

Dueling TE Touchdowns

After the interception, the Cleveland Browns’ defense was so scared of Justin Fields that they felt the need for twelve men on two different downs. Kmet also false started and there was a defensive pass interference. Basically, the drive had as many flags as live plays. Kmet made up for it by being there when Justin needed him, but the story of the touchdown was Fields’ elusiveness and ability to play hero ball. He gambled and won, getting Chicago the first score of the game. Unfortunately, the Chicago Bears’ defense clearly felt bad for the Browns and gave up an answering drive that let Joe Flacco complete a touchdown pass to David Njoku, the other team’s #85. I can appreciate the symmetry, but it was an unnecessary gesture.

Jenkins goes down, Cole Kmet steps up, and Fields gets Flused.

The big mauling guard went down and was clearly hurting on his way off the field (he was later ruled out for the game with a concussion).The following back-and-forth is really mostly notable for a solid run from RoJo and a willingness on the part of Fields to make smart plays. In this case, “smart plays” became code for “throw to Moore and Kmet.” A close call went Chicago’s way on the closing drive of the half, and there were some heroics all around. That progress is thrown away (literally) by a highly questionable decision on the part of the coaches to avoid the go-ahead field goal try and to ask Fields to throw deep into the endzone from 37 yards away. Not only was Fields picked off, he also took a solid hit that probably should have gotten a flag. On the plus side, Whitehair was serviceable in place of Jenkins on the drive. The downside, besides the possible lost points, is that there will be a notable group of boxscore-scouting fools who use that interception as evidence that Fields still has turnover problems. Those people don’t deserve a rebuttal, especially since the ball clearly hit the ground before a defender came anywhere near controlling it.

Touchdown Tremaine

The two linebacker free agents brought in by Ryan Poles combined to break up a Flacco pass and then pick it off. The result was Tremaine Edmunds charging into the endzone for a desperately needed score. Edmunds especially has gotten off to a slow start in Chicago, but he has come on strong in the last few games. His first career Pick-6 put Chicago in the lead.

A defensive stop on the next Cleveland possession and a steady drive by Fields–this time with a Santos field goal–and suddenly the Bears were up two scores.

Taylor muffs it and Stevenson picks it

After a beautiful defense stop, Trent Taylor muffed another punt, losing this one. However, Tyrique Stevenson bailed out Chicago and picked off Flacco for a 34-yard return. That’s three interceptions in a single game, which cures a lot of special teams woes. The drive ended on another turnover on downs (at least the staff seems consistent about going for it on fourth down).

Tez Effect, Part Two

Look, I have no idea what rating Montez Sweat has in Madden, but I think it’s obvious after his third sack of the game that it needs to be higher. At the time of this sack, he was leading two different teams’ sack totals for the season.

Fourth Quarter Struggles

The Bears still need to learn how to finish games. They kept making bad decisions in play selection, putting the ball in the air instead of grinding down clock and putting them off-schedule. They allowed a field goal from the Browns that narrowed the lead to a single score. Two toothless Chicago drives let Cleveland hang around, and finally Amari Cooper made Chicago pay for letting their foot off the gas.

Ultimately, more than 20 minutes of game time would go by without a Chicago score. Chicago could have really used three extra points from a field goal to end the first half, but more importantly they could have really used a more consistent offense anywhere in the second half. There were plays to be made, but this was a total collapse by the offense. Even taking off the phantom interception, Fields ended the day with a sub-60 passer rating.

The loss can be picked apart in days to come, but the failure of Mooney to secure a game-saving touchdown is emblematic of the continued struggles of this team.