What We Learned from the Chicago Bears’ Week 15 Win over the Cleveland Browns
The Chicago Bears came away with a big win over the Cleveland Browns. This game marked the return of Jay Cutler, and the Browns’ defense did not make it easy on him. Turnovers were aplenty in this game, and both teams made their fair share of mistakes. It was a bit of a messy game at times, and both teams will look to clean up their game following this one. In a game as back and forth as this one, the tape should provide a lot to learn from for both teams. Here’s what we learned from the Bears’ win over the Browns
Jay Cutler giveth, Jay Cutler taketh away, and Jay Cutler giveth again
The ever-analyzed Jay Cutler had somewhat of an up and down game in this one. It was obvious that he rusty at the start of this game, throwing an interception that may not have been entirely his fault, but it was still a bad decision. He overthrew some receivers and made some poor throws that culminated in a Browns’ pick-six. He started getting the offense going again at the end of the first half. In the third quarter, a fumble stalled a nice Bears drive, but in the fourth quarter, Jay really lived up to his nickname “Mr. 4th Quarter”. He drove the Bears down the field for touchdowns on three straight drives, including one on a great catch by Alshon Jeffery. Despite his early struggles, Cutler put together a pretty good game overall.
When trying to overcome the rust, Cutler looks to his favorite target
We saw it when Cutler first returned from injury against the Detroit Lions. On the first drive of that game, Cutler completed three passes, all to Brandon Marshall for 61 yards and a touchdown. Although those would be Marshall’s only catches of the half, it was a beautifully executed drive that helped get Cutler back into the swing of things, before he would injure his ankle. In this game, Cutler distributed the ball in the same fashion. In the first half, Marshall had 10 targets, while the rest of his receivers had nine combined. It was not until he got some quality drives going that he began to spread the ball a little more. The dependency on Marshall is not a formula for offensive efficiency, but the offense was still able to move the ball well. As Cutler continues to become more comfortable, it should keep the offense moving more smoothly.
Once again, time of possession is key for the Bears’ defense
The formula for the Bears’ defensive success has remained the same. Give them the lead and plenty of rest, and they can keep you in the game. It was on full display for most of the first half. They held the Browns’ offense to just three points in the first half, largely in part to the vast difference in time of possession. The Bears had the ball for nearly twice as long, 19.5 minutes to 10.5. When the Bears’ defense started to struggle was in the second half, when the Bears’ drives became shorter and the Browns’ became longer. Then in the fourth quarter, the Bears’ offense really got going again, and the defense was rested and played well. Overall, the defense played very well, and the correlation between their effectiveness and their amount of rest in undeniable.
Jeremiah Ratliff is the force at defensive tackle that the Bears have been missing
Jeremiah Ratliff has been excellent for the Bears since returning from injury. He has pressured quarterbacks up the middle and has found his way into the backfield on a number of runs. He has really done a great job of reviving a position that has been decimated by injuries. It started with the loss of the Pro-Bowler Henry Melton week three, followed by the loss of young and upcoming Nate Collins the very next game. From then until Ratliff’s debut, the Bears relied on undrafted free agents, free agents off the street, and a converted defensive end to man the position, and they just didn’t cut it. The addition of Ratliff has been huge for the Bears’ defensive line and defense as a whole, and he finished with three quarterback hits, although much of his impact isn’t shown on the stat sheet. The pressure he and the defensive line caused helped force Jason Campbell into his two interceptions, including the touchdown return by Zack Bowman. If he continues to play well, it will do wonders for the defense as they continue to get healthier.
Matt Forte’s final statistics hide a day of poor run blocking by the Bears’ offensive line.
Matt Forte ended up finishing with a huge game, racking up 127 yards on 24 carries, a quality 5.3 yards per carry. He made some very nice runs and looked as strong as ever. What is overshadowed by his overall big day was some very poor run blocking. He had 10 runs for three or fewer yards, and often times Forte would have to break one or more tackles in the backfield, just to get back to line of scrimmage. What really gave him such favorable numbers were the big runs he broke off. He had three runs of 15 or more yards, which balanced out the overall stats in spite of the little help he received from his offensive line for a lot of this game. It really speaks to his ability as a runningback.