A look at four keys for the Bears to beat this week’s opponent.
1. Run the football
The Browns have the second-worst run defense in the league, allowing 170.6 rushing yards per game. The Bears haven’t been able to run the ball well and are ranked No. 29 in that department, but if they’re not able to move the ball on the ground against Cleveland, they’ll never be able to do it against anybody all year. The Bears are likely making the switch from Frank Omiyale to Josh Beekman at left guard. Whether that has any kind of impact or not is questionable, but it couldn’t possibly be any worse. I’d like to see Ron Turner call some early run plays and stick with it throughout the game. If Forte can carry the ball 20-25 times against the Browns, we’ll know the Bears have things under control.
2. Jump out to an early lead
The Bears have scored just 7 points in the first quarters of six games this season. Although the Bears are equipped with a quarterback capable of leading comebacks, it’s too much to ask a young, inexperienced offense to play from behind all the time. The Browns are allowing 25.6 points per game this year, so we know the Bears will get on the scoreboard often. I’d like to see them not wait until the second half to get things going, though. It’d be nice if they could take their first drive down the field for a touchdown, or a field goal at the very least. Whether it’s the opening drive of the game and Johnny Knox gives them good field position with a return, or if the Browns start with the ball and punt it away to Devin Hester, who takes it back for a good return, the Bears’ offense shouldn’t have too far to drive to get on the board. Once they get an early lead, they have to keep their foot on the pedal much like the Bengals did to them last week.
3. Cover kicks
The Browns’ Josh Cribbs is a dangerous player, one of the best kick returners in the league. He had a 41-yard kickoff return last week against the Packers and a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown two weeks ago against the Steelers. Considering how poorly the Bears’ special teams units have played the past two weeks, they’re really going to have to bring their A-game to prevent the big return on Sunday. Brad Maynard’s coffin-corner punting will come in handy as well. Hopefully the Bears put the game away early just as the Packers did last week, because one kick or punt return can change the field position and the momentum of the game in a hurry.
4. Bring the pressure on defense
The Browns will trot out Derek Anderson on Sunday, but it doesn’t matter if either he or Brady Quinn play quarterback because both guys are lousy. For as bad as they are, though, I guarantee either player could complete passes without any pressure. The Bears have gone two straight games without generating a sack or even much pressure on opposing quarterbacks and that’s not good enough to win games in this league. The Browns have one of the worst turnover ratios in the league at minus-7 — for the record, the Bears are only slightly better at minus-5 — which means if the Bears can get after Anderson, they can force him to make poor decisions and throw some interceptions. Anderson is tied for seventh-worst in the league with 7 interceptions — and he’s only started 4 games.