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Not a lot has gone right in 2013 for the Cleveland Browns, and the team fell to 4-10 with a 38-31 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 15.
There are a number of things that can be pointed to as the cause of Cleveland's struggles this year. In the opinion of AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst, part of the cause of Sunday's loss was a poorly formulated game plan:
No defense is as bad against the run as the Chicago Bears. The Cleveland Browns had an opening on Sunday for their listless run game to show a spark, with the Bears giving up an average of 157 rushing yards per game.
Despite running the ball an average of just 22.3 times per game for a mere 83 yards, the Browns had an opportunity to run early and often on the Bears, build a lead and control the clock. Though quarterback Jason Campbell had been playing well for the Browns, thanks in part to a record-setting four-week span by his top receiver, Josh Gordon, Cleveland needed to give its running backs some attention against the Bears.
Instead, the Browns opted to run only 17 times in a losing effort.
Campbell struggled, especially in the first three quarters of the game. His throws were off-target, and though not sacked once, the Bears sent just enough pressure to rattle him in windy and cold conditions. Campbell completed 23 of his 39 pass attempts for 273 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, one a pick-six.
Cleveland remained committed to heavy passing despite Campbell’s poor play and the run game paying off rather considerable dividends.
In total, the Browns had 93 yards on their 17 rushes, a 5.5 yards-per-carry average that was significantly higher than the 3.8 they were averaging headed into Week 15. Newly signed back Edwin Baker had 38 yards and a touchdown on his eight carries, giving him a 4.8 yards-per-carry average.
With Campbell struggling, increased handoffs would have certainly improved the Browns’ chances of winning and kept them in possession of the football. The Browns trailed in time of possession, 25:12 to 34:48, a certain contributing factor to their one-touchdown loss.
While it’s understandable why the Browns opted against running heavily, considering how poorly they had been running the ball, they blew an opportunity by not attacking the Bears where they were the weakest. Gordon was held to only 67 yards, and no Browns receiver reached 70 yards.
It was clear in the first half that Campbell’s day was going to be long and ugly, and adjustments should have been made.
Cleveland’s offense is a "work in progress" that isn’t going to come into its own until next year. However, that doesn’t mean the Browns should remain stuck in their heavy passing ways when up against a defense as weak against the run as Chicago’s.