There’s no such thing as a bad victory. A win is a win and a 1-point victory counts just the same in the standings as a blowout.
I sat through three and a half quarters largely unsatisfied by the Bears’ overall performance, even though victory never seemed to be in doubt, even early in the game when the teams traded three-and-outs. Dessert — if you pardon the metaphor — didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter when an inspired Bears defense attacked the Browns near Cleveland’s end zone, the result of which nearly led to two safeties and ultimately led to a pick-six.
Ironically, preceding that series, the Bears failed to punch the ball in the end zone on four straight downs near the goal line. Instead of attempting a field goal, they wanted to gain some confidence for their offense and went for it on fourth down. It didn’t succeed, but it set up a good series for the defense. During that series, the Browns ran the ball on first and second down and nearly were stopped in the end zone for a safety each time. On third down, they attempted to pass out of the end zone, but pressure by the ends forced Browns quarterback Derek Anderson to throw the ball earlier than he wanted, and his pass was intercepted by Charles Tillman and taken in for a touchdown.
That series was probably the most inspired I’ve seen the defense play in quite a few weeks, and that’s the kind of effort and passion we’ll need to see from them in the coming weeks to help make up for a shaky pass defense. Because the Browns are such a bad team, I was never worried about Anderson picking apart the Bears’ secondary. If they were going to have any success, it would mostly come from dink-and-dunk play calling.
In all, there wasn’t much to fret about on the defensive side of the ball. They played well all game and generated 5 turnovers — two interceptions and three fumbles. And the only points that the Browns scored came off a shanked punt by Brad Maynard that gave them great field position.
That leads me to the special teams. Aside from that one punt, the special teams did a great job at keeping the NFL’s best punt returner, and one of the best kick returners, Josh Cribbs, in check all game. Devin Hester had a couple good punt returns, including one that he took to the house that was called back due to a questionable holding penalty by Rashied Davis.
Unfortunately, the offense didn’t join the fun in today’s game. Two out of three phases isn’t too bad, even though we’d all like to see all three phases clicking at the same time. Despite picking up 90 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground, Matt Forte and the Bears’ run game struggled against one of the league’s worst run defenses. Forte finished with an average of just 3.5 yards per carry. Because of their troubles moving the ball on the ground, and, to give Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan credit, Cleveland’s confusing defensive schemes and blitzes, the Bears’ offense looked out of sync all game. Jay Cutler finished with 225 yards, no touchdowns and one interception on 17 of 30 passing, but was harassed all game to the tune of four sacks and constant contact after his throws. Following last week’s career game at receiver, Hester had another good one this week with 7 catches for 81 yards.
It’s okay to be greedy and want more — I know I do. But I’m not going to complain over a win, even if it was expected all week, and despite Cleveland being one of the worst teams in the league. The victory moved them to 4-3 and they’ll gain ground in the standings on either the Packers or Vikings — who play each other today. We’ll have a few days to enjoy a victory, but the upcoming contest against the Cardinals has me worried. Arizona has the No. 7 passing offense in the league, and without defensive pressure on Kurt Warner, it could be an ugly game.