By Jeff Joniak-
Offense: Dealing With Another 3-4
In Week 2, Jay Cutler solved Pittsburgh’s fire zone 3-4 scheme, and one of Steeler coordinator Dick LeBeau’s students is using it in Cleveland. Yards are tough to come by against the Ray Horton coached Browns defense.
Only Seattle allows fewer yards per play than the Browns who allow only 4.6. They have a solid, capable front seven full of gap clogging big guys and a very good cornerback in Joe Haden.The Browns are also third in the NFL in yards per pass attempt allowed at 5.32. Against the run, the Browns have allowed only 26 carries for 10 yards plus, that’s tied for the second fewest in the NFL.
The point here is that the Browns are not without flaws defensively, but they are going to make the Bears earn every yard. The Bears offense is hot with four games out of five surpassing 400 total yards and they turn it back over to Jay Cutler. He’s missed a month of games, but all the decision makers involved feel he will pick up the baton and perform at a high level. The Bears own the league’s fifth best passing offense featuring weapons that are on pace to be only the second duo in the NFL since 2006 to surpass 1300 yards receiving in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. Running the ball with Matt Forte and Michael Bush may not be simple. The Browns have not allowed a 100-yard back in over a year.
Defense: Defending 3 Levels
Until the Bears forcefully take away the run, teams will continue to attack the Bears on the ground. Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner favors a point of attack scheme, with powers, counters and toss plays. However, the Browns have run it only 290 times, third fewest in the NFL, at a clip of 3.78 yards, one of the six worst in the league.
They’ve also produced the fewest touchdowns runs with only two. What the Bears defense must prepare for is a three tiered passing game. They’ve thrown it 67.6% of the time this season, which is second highest in the league and for good reason. Second year receiver
Josh Gordon is exploding with the second highest yards after the catch in the league with 615 of his 1400. His 71 catches have averaged 19.7 yards, number one among receivers with more than 35 receptions. Tight end Jordan Cameron has 72 receptions for 825 yards, and 23 are third down catches, the most at his position in the NFL.
This duo has combined for 15 touchdowns. 66 more receptions have come from the backfield trio of Willis McGahee, Fozzy Whitaker, and fullback Chris Ogbonnaya. The Browns have used three quarterbacks this season, but Jason Campbell is coming off a 390 yard, three-touchdown performance at New England. The Bears must defend every level of the Browns passing game.
Special Teams: Excel
Ex-Bears assistant Chris Tabor runs the Browns special team unit and his big weapon injured his knee in October and is out for the season. Travis Benjamin was averaging better than 11-yards per punt return with a touchdown. His speed is elite, and taking it out of the equation is certainly a bonus for the Bears.
The last time the Bears did not punt the ball in a game was 1972, but Adam Podlesh didn’t swing his leg once Monday night. He and Robbie Gould, along with long snapper Patrick Mannelly and return man Devin Hester, give the Bears an edge on the Browns. Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis is looking for some big plays.
Intagibles: No Monday Night Let Down
This season the Bears have lost three games on the road against Washington, St. Louis and Minnesota – all who are below .500. Cleveland got off to a 3-3 start, but is 1-6 in its last seven games. So, they are another sub-500 team. The Browns have one more pass completion at 315 than the Bears, who have two more touchdown throws at 26.
The Browns get sacked more, throw more interceptions, and score a lot less offensive points than the Bears who are fifth in scoring with 327 and the Browns are tied for 27th at 236. However, the Bears have a defense that can mess up tempo and rhythm and the Bears will have to be ready to play in what could be a wintry mix along the shores of Lake Erie.