The DEFEND Cleveland Show

Bears vs Browns – Week 15 – Defend Cleveland Preview

A Browns Christmas Story

 
With the Bears coming to town this week with their playoff hopes holding on by a thread and this being the final home game of the season for the Browns, you would think the discussion locally would center on the actual game, or the fact the Browns could play the part of spoilers, or with a win how the Browns would end up .500 at home for the year which would mark the first time the Browns have posted a non-losing record at home since 2007. One might even think the conversation would be more about how the Browns defense will matchup against Jay Cutler who has been cleared to start for the Bears for the first time in a month, or how Josh Gordon can further his record setting year with a yet another week of amazing. Nope, instead of these things that are certain to play out this Sunday, Cleveland fans and local pundits alike have been mostly cast adrift dreaming of a scenario where one of the two Bears quarterbacks, Jay Cutler or Josh McCown, end up coming to Cleveland via free agency in the offseason.

There you go, that’s not a total waste of time and energy or anything.

In fact, why stop there? Why not openly long for them both to come to Cleveland this offseason, that would make even more sense. We know all about QB injuries around these parts and both those two have played in tandem incredibly well with one another. McCown is fine with it being someone else’s team and playing the roll of backup, so ego wouldn’t be an issue. And just think how good the two of them would look throwing to Gordon and Cameron, not to mention how good they would look behind an offensive line led by Joe Thomas who at least understands pass blocking is part of what an offensive lineman is supposed to do. Wow. Both those guys in Cleveland would be awesome!

Do you know what would be even better though? If they also added Michael Vick! He’s a free agent at the end of the year as well and that would make for three good quarterbacks to lead the Brown and Orange charge next year, which is three more than we’ve had since Kosar. What’s best then is if they keep Hoyer and Campbell as backups just in case all those other three get hurt. You never know, right?

This is going to be way better than having to turn to Weeden for anything beyond giving him a one way ticket back to Oklahoma. It can’t fail!

Seriously, folks, if you’re going to dream, dream BIG or don’t dream at all.

How about we discuss the game now?

 

Matchups to Watch For

 
– The Offensive Arsenal of the Bears versus the All of a Sudden Not-So-Good Browns Defense – Remember last week when I said the Browns defense since the bye week has been pretty bad?  A horrible pass interference call and a recovered onside kick aside, the Browns were burned for 418 yards and 27 points by Tom Brady and they yet again let a lead disintegrate on their opponents final drive. The nine games prior to the bye the Browns were giving up 22 points a game and only three times allowed their opponents 27 points or more. In the four games since the bye the Browns have given up 32 points a game and haven’t allowed less than 27 points. What’s even more scary than all that is the Bears bring to town arguably the best set of offensive weapons in the NFL.

Brandon Marshall ranks 1st overall among wide receivers in the NFL this year and his running mate Alshon Jeffrey ranks 5th1. If you’re keeping score Josh Gordon even after becoming a god the last month is ranked 12th. It doesn’t stop there for the Bears either, Matt Forte ranks 4th in receiving among half backs, and Martellus Bennett ranks 8th among tight ends.

Yes, Jay Cutler will be fully armed and the Browns defensive pass coverage had better be ready. I’m talking to you Buster Skrine who had one of his worst weeks of the season against the Pats, and you Leon McFadden who was even worse than Skrine (thank goodness Chris Owens should return this week), and I’m especially talking to you Craig Robertson who among inside linebackers in pass coverage ranks 54th out of 54. You might recently recall Robertson from his having to chase after Vereen down the field for 50 yards which sparked the Patriots comeback last week. I’ve been saying this for the better part of the entire season, he’s awful, and he’s about to get seriously picked on again if he isn’t provided a whole scheme’s worth of help.

What is the Achilles’ heal of this Bears offensive stronghold though is its offensive line. Its flaw is by and large why we now know that McCown is such a good quarterback, it’s because Cutler is a flat footed battered and beaten sitting duck behind what the Bears loosely term as pass protection on the edges. Though relatively strong up the middle, Chicago have all kinds of issues at left and right tackle where Jermon Bushrod and Jordan Mills respectively have combined to allow 6 sacks, 20 hits and 93 hurries. By comparison if you subtract the 20 hurries that Oniel Cousins allowed in the four games he started at the beginning of the year, the entire Browns offensive line combined have only allowed 91 hurries. Granted the Browns have their own version of a quarterback nightmare at right tackle with Mitchell Schwartz, but even he can say he’s been better than Bushrod and Mills.

Pretty much what I’m talking about here is that the Bears will kill you if given even the slightest opportunity to, and unless the Browns with a mixture of Sheard, Kruger and Mingo can bring the heat off the edge (in addition to whatever else Ray Horton can cook up), the Browns weak pass coverage that includes everyone not named Joe Haden could be burned repeatedly all afternoon long.
 
– You Think the Bears Offensive Tackles are Bad, Their Run Defense is the Worst – The Bears run defense is the worst in the league, allowing an alarming 157 yards a game. Everyone by now is probably aware that the Browns defense has not allowed a 100 yard rusher all season, well, the Bears defense by contrast has been so bad they haven’t stopped a team from having a running back go for 100 yards or better against them in their last 6 games and counting. They’re so bad they allowed Brandon Jacobs of the Giants to go for 106 yards and a couple touchdowns even though Jacobs hadn’t run for 100 yards in a game in over two years.

Does this mean that the Browns should abandon going to Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and the passing game and instead go to the ground and pound? Absolutely not. What may surprise you though is that the Browns have attempted to run the ball an average of 26 plays a game the last two weeks and are averaging over 100 yards per. Granted 27 of those yards came last week via the Campbell scramble and another 34 yards were delivered on a well executed reverse to Gordon, but still the Browns have at least been trying to run the ball more of late and it’s provided a decent balance to better attack through the air.

Effectively establishing the run against even a weak Bears defense is made somewhat more difficult with Willis McGahee listed as questionable, but everyone who does lineup in the backfield for the Browns this Sunday had better be ready to be handed the ball. Against the Bears if you don’t at least attempt to run the ball 25 times to see what you can get, you just aren’t trying to attack them the right way. That said, if he can hold onto the ball, look for Chris Ogbonnaya to come in to this one looking for a career best like he did a couple years ago for the Browns when he accounted for 115 yards and a touchdown in a win against the Jaguars.

 

Prediction

 
I’m not messing with, Vegas opened the odds on this one at -2.5 Browns. Of course all of you out there who are incredulous of such a line have pushed it to +1 Browns, because that’s what you do.

To hell with it though, throw caution to the winter winds, the Browns get it done this week and do what should be more important than dreaming about who they might or might not acquire in free agency in the offseason, or even that of where and who they might land in the 2014 Draft. That’s right, their winning this game is more important than all of that speculation.

Beyond the talking points of pointless opinions all week, it is still far more important that this team win games this year and not do so solely at this point to play the part of spoiler or for any other reason except to learn how to be consistent and win games. This Bears team will give the Browns chances to win, without a doubt, they’re incredibly dangerous offensively, sure, but they have plenty of question marks all over the field and this Cleveland team has proven they can hang with some of the best teams in the NFL this year. They just need to be (a lot) better at finishing games, and no better time is better than now in beginning to figure this out.

The Browns have ended their year with 4 or 5 wins each of the last 6 years, even if they only end up with 6 wins this year it would be an improvement, and more importantly, it would better match the talent this team has demonstrated it possesses all year. No matter what you may think or what picture the standings paint, this 2013 Cleveland Browns is better all the way around than any of the Browns teams since 2007, and it’s important they show it. Their future looks bright, brighter than it has in some time and I think we can all agree on this, and it will be even brighter by beating the Bears at home this week.

Go Browns.
 
 
-Mike James
 

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  1. All according to the peerless work of ProFootballFocus, which of course is the source used for these weekly DC Show previews unless it is otherwise obvious or noted. []

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Posted by on Dec 12 2013. Filed under Featured, Show Reports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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