A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Cleveland Browns.
1. Keep Browns under 200 rushing yards
It’s sad to think that we have to set the bar so low (or high, if you’re using yards as the measurement) for this Bears run defense. We know the Bears can’t stop the run, so declaring that as a key to victory wouldn’t make sense. The simplest way to put it is that the Bears have to try to prevent rushing attempts over 10 yards and make the Browns work hard to get yards on the ground. The Cowboys rushed for 198 yards against the Bears and could have had much more if they hadn’t abandoned the run so early. The Browns will likely have a rushing attack of Chris Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker on Sunday. Don’t know who those guys are? You will after Sunday unless the Bears step it up.
2. Win the time of possession
The best way to keep the opponent’s score low is to keep the ball out of their hands. The Bears have done a good job this season of extending their drives and eating up a lot of clock. This keeps the Bears’ defense fresh on the sideline and leaves the opposing offense little with which to work. The Browns are not explosive enough to score quickly and often … that is, unless the Bears defenders break down in their assignments. It’s going to take them some time to move the ball, so if the Bears dominate the time of possession, the Browns can’t and won’t score a lot.
3. Be strong on first downs
When you’re a defender and you line up opposite an offense that has been running down your throat all day, the last situation you want to be in is third and short. You have no confidence at that point that you’ll make a stop. The Bears defense needs to get better on first downs. They need to hold runs to three yards or less and set up second and long. Allowing an offense too much on first down opens up the playbook and makes it more difficult on the defense. Similarly, the Bears offense needs to have success on first down. They become increasingly unpredictable if they can set themselves up with second and short.
4. Take care of the football
Jay Cutler is back in the lineup and I’m excited about the possibilities. However, I do have concerns because you have to take the bad with the good. While Cutler has the bigger and better arm, better athleticism, and better football instincts and intelligence, he also is more careless with the football. Cutler is likely to show a little rust in his return, but let’s hope that “rust” is him just misfiring a pass that lands incomplete and not into a defender’s hands.