Full disclosure: I thought the Bears would lose this. In my defence, why wouldn’t I? John Fox has been in town three years and in that time he’s never won a game in which the Bears were favourites. It had only happened seven times, because the Bears have been so bad it’s not often anyone expects them to win…
They’re a good underdog and have little trouble covering big spreads, but put them up against a fellow basement team and they always come up short. Not this time though. The win over the Browns was incredibly easy in the end, although it was still in the balance at the half, with the Bears only holding a 6-3 lead. They ran away with it in the second half and dominated both sides of the ball.
They had a lot of help from the hapless Browns, who couldn’t get out of their own way. Take the TD they had called back for the most inexcusable of offsides on the first play of the second half. Miles Garrett picked off a deflected Mitch Trubisky pass and showed great athleticism to take it to the house. Uh-oh, the Bears could be in trouble here, but no, there’s a yellow flag. What’s that for? Carl Nassib had lined up miles offside. How does that happen? I mean, how does he not see a) where the ball is and b) where the rest of the D-line are lined up.
This is why they have no wins. I thought the Bears were bad for this kind of thing, but that was as Brownsy as you’re going to get. It was a let off for the Bears and Trubisky and they took advantage with a scoring drive that ended with Jordan Howard’s second TD run of the game. Usually when the offense has any success it’s because they’ve pounded it with Howard and had a little razzle dazzle from my boy Tarik Cohen. This time they mixed it up a little and Mitch was able to move up and down the field using his arm as well as his legs.
A big reason for that was the success of the screen game. In the first half the Browns were blitzing frequently and Trubisky wasn’t identifying it. In the second half the Bears countered the blitz with some screen passes to Benny Cunningham. I like Cunningham, he’s good. He doesn’t get the ball as much as he probably should, because it seems as though most times he gets the ball in his hands he makes something happen.
I love a good screen pass too. It’s demoralising when the defense sniffs them out and they go nowhere, and it’s even more demoralising when you see your QB throw it straight into some big fat D-lineman’s hands (yes Jay Cutler, I’m looking at you here), but when it works it’s great.
The offense enjoyed themselves but the defense were much more impressive, holding the Browns to just a solitary field goal and coming up with some timely takeaways. Kyle Fuller had a great game. He’s had a very good season for the most part, at least it feels like he has to my untrained eye. Offensive co-ordinators keep throwing his way all the time though so they’re seeing something that gives them encouragement. No-one seems to be having much success against him though.
The Browns twice put themselves in scoring position only to turn the ball over. Fuller picked off a throw that DeShone Kizer should never have thrown (he’s like a young Cutler). Then they had a nice play from a wide receiver who broke a few tackles and surged towards the goal line before being stood up by a defender.
Whenever that happens there’s always the risk of a fumble as other defenders come flying in trying to strip the ball. Danny Trevathan was trying to rip it out and then Eddie Goldman came ploughing in and knocked it loose. Prince Amukamura picked it up and the Bears lead the league in fumble recoveries this year. They need to get more INT’s but overall it’s been a great year for the defense considering they’ve had to deal with injuries to key players all year.
While there’s no point reading anything into a win over the hapless Browns, one thing you have to say is that for all John Fox’s shortcomings, this team has never quit on him and has played with passion and pride all year. Some weeks it feels as though the Bears are really close to being a playoff contender, and other weeks it feels like they’re a million miles way. There’s talent on the roster and some nice building blocks for the future, but if the Bears are to get back to being able to compete in their own division it’s going to come down to whether they can hire the right coaches.
The Bears swept the AFC North this year, which begs the question; just how bad is the AFC North, and is there any chance the Bears can join it next year?