Bears vs. Browns: Breaking Down Chicago's Game Plan

Matt EurichAnalyst IDecember 13, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 29:  Brandon Jackson #27 of the Cleveland Browns is tackled by Khaseem Greene #60 and Anthony Walters #37 of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on August 29, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Chicago Bears improved to 7-6 on the season after their 45-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

Quarterback Josh McCown was stellar Monday night, throwing for 348 yards while tossing four touchdowns and running another touchdown in on his way to being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.

While McCown had one of the best performances a Bears quarterback has ever had against the Cowboys, Marc Trestman will go with a healthy Jay Cutler as his starter this Sunday, per the Chicago Bears official website.

The Bears are tied atop the standings with the Detroit Lions, but the Lions hold the tiebreaker with their two victories over the Bears this season. Chicago will need a win this Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, as well as some help along the way, in order to increase its chances of winning the NFC North en route to the playoffs.

Despite being in the league for a combined 158 seasons, Sunday will mark just the 15th time that the Bears and Browns have squared off against one another. Cleveland leads the all-time series, having won nine of the two teams' previous 14 contests.

The Bears will try to improve to 8-6 on the season and hope for a Lions loss. In order to get that victory, there are a few keys to winning Sunday's game.


Slow Down Josh Gordon

While the Bears have been lucky to watch the emergence of second-year wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, Cleveland Browns fans have been just as lucky to watch Josh Gordon blossom into one of the league's best.

Gordon currently leads the NFL with 1,400 receiving yards on the season while averaging nearly 20 yards a catch and hauling in eight touchdowns, all while being suspended for the first two games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Gordon has a special combination of speed and strength and causes defensive coordinators to stay up late trying to devise a game plan to stop him.

One of his biggest strengths this season has been his yards after catch. He currently sits third in the league in yards after catch with 517, and that ability to pick up yards after the catch was on display Sunday against the New England Patriots.

Late in the third quarter with a 12-7 lead over the Patriots, the Browns offense lined up with their "12" personnel (two wide receivers, two tight ends, one running back) with Gordon out to the left of the formation with Aquib Talib matched against him (pictured below).

NFL Game Rewind

Gordon runs a quick slant (in yellow) and due to tight end Jordan Cameron running a route on the opposite side of the field, he is able to draw down the safety (in red).

NFL Game Rewind

Because of Gordon's strength and speed, he stiff-arms Talib (pictured below) to create space. Due to the safety covering Cameron, he has nothing but green grass ahead of him en route to an 80-yard touchdown.

NFL Game Rewind

What makes Gordon so difficult to defend is if the cornerback tries to play physical, he is strong enough to fight him off, and if the cornerback lays back in a zone, he can burn him with his speed.

Tim Jennings and Zackary Bowman will both have a difficult task on Sunday against him, and the Bears may need to give them safety help over top as much as possible to slow down Gordon.


Protect the Quarterback

While the Cleveland Browns have only won four games this season, their defense is quietly becoming one of the best up-and-coming defenses in the league.

Under the tutelage of Ray Horton, this young Browns defense currently sits seventh in the NFL in total defense, allowing 320 yards per game.

One area it has excelled at best this season is getting after the quarterback. Rookie Barkevious Mingo leads the team with five sacks while nine others have two or more sacks on the season.

Mingo recorded his first sack since Week 7 on Sunday against New England. While he can be quick and explosive off the ball, he has looked less than stellar at times this season.

His explosiveness was on display against the Patriots on Sunday when he took Tom Brady down early in the second quarter.

Mingo lined up opposite of the tight end and got a free release off of the ball (pictured below).

NFL Game Rewind

Tom Brady faked the handoff to running back LeGarrette Blount, but due to how quickly he came off the line of scrimmage, neither Blount nor guard Logan Mankins was able to pick him up quickly enough.

NFL Game Rewind

Due to that great jump, he is able to dip his shoulder and fight his way through both Blount and Mankins and take Brady down for an eight-yard loss.

NFL Game Rewind

The Bears offensive line has certainly improved from last year and has benefited from a game plan that gets rid of the ball quickly, but it will still have to contend with Mingo's speed and explosiveness. Containing Mingo and the rest of that talented defensive line will go a long way in helping the Bears defeat the Browns on Sunday afternoon.

Rookie Jordan Mills has had his share of ups and downs this season at right tackle but will have to build off his strong Monday night performance if he wants to keep Jay Cutler upright against Mingo.