Cleveland’s defense scored off of two interceptions and a recovered fumble, but it wasn’t enough as Jay Cutler orchestrated 21 unanswered points in the final frame.
Jason Campbell was indecisive and wild as he was picked off twice and ended the afternoon with a passer rating of just 67.6.
|Cleveland Browns Grades|
|Positional Unit||First-Half Grade||Final Grade|
|Week 15 vs. Bears|
Final Analysis for Cleveland
Pass Offense: Jason Campbell followed up his first-half interception with a second one on Cleveland’s opening drive of the third quarter. It looked to be a miscommunication between Greg Little and Campbell as Little turned in on his route and the quarterback threw it as if expecting a comeback.
After an invisible first half, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron got going a little more over the final two quarters. Gordon finished with a touchdown and a total of 67 yards, while Cameron contributed only 23 through the air. It was the fifth-straight game that Gordon scored.
Campbell settled largely for short, checkdown passing options that saw Chris Ogbonnaya lead the club in receptions with five. The veteran quarterback looked sloppy most of the day and could have easily been picked off four or five times in addition to his pair of interceptions.
Run Offense: Backup tight end MarQueis Gray ran consecutive Wildcat plays to give a break to the struggling passing game in the third quarter. Gray rolled for 30 total yards on the pair of carries.
In his first NFL regular season game, Edwin Baker followed up Gray’s efforts with a touchdown rush and that was only the Browns’ third rushing touchdown of the season. Baker was impressive in his debut as he rumbled for 38 yards on eight carries.
Pass Defense: The pass defense is why Cleveland was able to remain in this game. Two interceptions by Tashaun Gipson, one returned for a touchdown, equaled a career day for the safety. Another bright spot came when Billy Winn punched the ball loose from Martellus Bennett, which was then recovered by T.J. Ward and returned 51 yards for another defensive score.
Cleveland’s front seven struggled to pressure quarterback Jay Cutler in the first half, but were finally able to penetrate late in the third. The Browns finished the day with two sacks and allowed Cutler to march back for multiple scores in the fourth.
Brandon Marshall feasted at times on cornerback Joe Haden (eventually scoring a touchdown), but one positive is that Alshon Jeffery was largely controlled. That is until Jeffery won a jump ball battle for a huge 45-yard fourth-quarter touchdown.
Haden had to leave the game with a hip injury, which forced Leon McFadden into more prominent action. The absence of Haden resulted in several penalties on the Browns secondary that looked overwhelmed at times without their leader.
Run Defense: Matt Forte sliced up Cleveland’s defensive line all afternoon for 127 yards on 24 carries. Even Michael Bush scooted for a massive 40-yard touchdown late that put the contest out of reach. Defending the run continues to be an area that needs plenty of improvement.
Special Teams: Chicago’s return specialist Devin Hester was kept out of the end zone, but did contribute with 105 total return yards. The Browns didn’t do anything of significance in running back any of their kicks or punts.
Coaching: The play-calling was not overly aggressive or passive this afternoon. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner blended in the run nicely with the pass, handing the rock off on 17 occasions.
First-Half Analysis for the Cleveland Browns
Pass Offense: Cleveland could not convert six off of Chicago’s opening-drive turnover and had to settle for a field goal. That series was killed when Davone Bess dropped his ninth ball of the season on a very catchable pass from Campbell. Campbell didn’t help his own cause when he threw a terrible interception well over the shoulder of tight end Jordan Cameron later in the half.
Greg Little looked terrific as a slot receiver and was able to use his impressive physicality to turn a couple of plays that looked lost into nice gains. He raced for 50 yards on two catches.
Gordon dropped the only pass that he was targeted on in the first half and Cameron did not have a reception on three targets. With zero combined yards between those two, thank goodness for Cleveland's defense forcing a pair of turnovers.
Run Offense: With Willis McGahee out injured, the Browns stuck with their running back by committee strategy against the 32nd-ranked Bears run defense. Edwin Baker was signed off of the Houston Texans practice squad this week and split reps with Fozzy Whittaker and Ogbonnaya. Baker surprisingly led the way with 28 yards and an average of 7.0 yards per carry. As a team they handed the ball off eight times for 36 yards.
Pass Defense: On Chicago’s opening series Gipson intercepted a pass in the end zone that T.J. Ward tipped up and galloped back 30-plus yards. Gipson continued his career day with a second interception and that came in the second quarter.
Inside linebacker Craig Robertson is being consistently targeted by Cutler over the middle. The Bears successfully exploited the mismatches between Robertson and Bennett or Forte all half.
Late in the second quarter Marshall out-muscled Haden on consecutive plays that ended with a touchdown. However, Jeffery was held in check with three receptions that didn’t lead to anything of note.
Run Defense: The Browns run defense has been exploited once again this week as Forte, one of the league's best running backs, found early success. Forte sliced up Cleveland’s defensive line for 44 yards, averaging 4.0 yards per carry.
Special Teams: Hester didn’t take a kick back to the house, but was able to cut up Cleveland’s coverage unit for a combined 79 return yards. Even kicker Billy Cundiff had to get involved on the Hester containment by shoving him out of bounds at one point.
Coaching: On 3rd-and-1 in the second quarter, Cleveland chose to pass (it went incomplete) instead of rushing against the NFL’s worst run defense. The coaching staff clearly has no confidence in their ground game. To their credit, offensive coordinator did keep a nice pass-run balance through two quarters.
Andy McNamara is an international sports broadcaster and journalist.
Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyMc81