Game Review: Browns Let Another One Slip Away in 38-31 Loss to Bears

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Pokorny breaks down the Cleveland Browns' 38-31 loss to the Chicago Bears.

The Cleveland Browns lost another game late, thanks to getting out-scored 21-7 in the final quarter of play. These fourth-quarter collapses have gotten real tiresome, haven't they? Let's get to my complete game review to see all of the positives and negatives from the game.

Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns

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WEEK 15 - CHICAGO BEARS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)

  1. Goat of the Game: OG Shawn Lauvao - Near the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Browns had a 24-17 lead and were driving the ball into Bears territory. Facing a 2nd-and-4 at the 27 yard line, QB Jason Campbell handed off to RB Chris Ogbonnaya for a gain of 8 yards. It should have set up a 1st-and-10 at the 19 yard line, and at the very least, we'd be in position to take a two-possession lead. The run was negated, though, because Lauvao was flagged for a hold:
    Off7a_medium

    Cleveland was backed up at the 37 yard line, and eventually had to punt rather than trying a 54-yard field goal (where art thou, Phil Dawson).

  2. Awarding the Game Ball: DE Billy Winn - Since it was a rare day in which WR Josh Gordon didn't have the flashiest of games, it's good to reward a hustle play.
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    On a (situation, DE Billy Winn came off of his man and hustled to pursue TE Martellus Bennett after one of our defenders missed a tackle. Winn jumped on Bennett from behind. I don't think he tried to chop the ball out, but he still ended up jarring it loose, allowing S T.J. Ward to get the glory for a 44-yard touchdown return.

  3. Awful Against Cutler on Third Down: The Browns' defense allowed the Bears to convert 9-of-14 (64%) of their third downs, which is terrible for Cleveland. Worst yet was the productivity allowed on those third downs to QB Jay Cutler, who had a perfect 158.3 rating on third down, completing 11-of-12 passes for 152 yards and 2 touchdowns.
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    Cutler's third-down success started on the first drive of the game, and it's way too easy. Facing a 3rd-and-7, at the far left of the screenshot above, you can see TE Martellus Bennett. He is being guarded one-on-one by LB D'Qwell Jackson.
    Def1b_medium

    Jackson fails to get a good bump at the line of scrimmage, and Bennett gets good separation. Cutler leads him well so that Bennett is able to make a catch-and-run for 23 yards.

  4. Ward Gets Bump & Tip on INT: The Bears looked ready to score on their first drive, but on a 1st-and-10 from the 14 yard line, the Browns got what was a rare red zone turnover.
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    WR Brandon Marshall is in the green circle, and he's going to run right at SS T.J. Ward. OLB Jabaal Sheard, who is lined up over Marshall, ends up taking TE Martellus Bennett over the middle of the field.
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    There is a little bump past the five-yard restriction, but the officials don't signal illegal contact. Ward was standing his ground, and both guys kind of grabbed each other for a second.
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    Off of the bump, Marshall makes an inside move and Cutler tries to use his height advantage. Ward does a very good job keeping the coverage tight, though, and the ball is perhaps a little bit underthrown. Still, Ward makes a great job getting his hands up for the tip, and then FS Tashaun Gipson grabs the interception and returns it 35 yards.

  5. The Rise of Edwin Baker: Any running back who has even an ounce of success in this system is going to draw the attention of fans, and that's what RB Edwin Baker did against the Bears.
    Off1a_medium

    It was very surprising to hear Baker's name called on the second play of the game. Facing the Bears' worst-ranked run defense, Cleveland is going to pull with TE MarQueis Gray (lined up at fullback) and RG Shawn Lauvao, while RT Mitchell Schwartz and TE Gary Barnidge block to the inside.
    Off1b_medium

    Right away, you can see how poor the Bears' run defense is, as Baker's first career carry sees a big hole open up as he goes for 10 yards and a first down. Unfortunately, due to a limited number of plays, Cleveland couldn't capitalize on Chicago's poor run defense most of the game.

  6. Gordon Not Targeted in First Half: As the first half was going by, fans were definitely wondering why QB Jason Campbell was not targeting WR Josh Gordon more often. I have to wonder, too, because just like in past weeks, Gordon was open.
    Off2a_medium

    Take this play, for example: it's 3rd-and-8 from the 17 yard line in the first quarter. In the trips set at the top of the screen, Gordon is in the middle. WR Davone Bess is closest to Campbell in the trips formation.
    Off2b_medium

    Campbell is getting ready to throw here, and you can see that Gordon is wide open for a touchdown as he streaks up the seam. Campbell doesn't make a terrible decision by throwing to Bess, since he has some separation too.
    Off2c_medium

    The throw is there, but Bess drops it, continuing his season-long woes. As somewhat of a defense to Campbell, Gordon's route might have been a flag route, because after the screenshot in which he looked open, he started peeling to the corner. However, with how off the coverage was in zone on Gordon, you think he would've recognized a hot read.

  7. Defending the Jeffery End-Around, Part I: Heading into the game, I asked our Bears affiliate why WR Alshon Jeffery was getting so many carries. He said it didn't seem to make sense, because the plays (reverses / end-arounds) were not going for big plays, but he also speculated that they were doing it over and over to set up something big. As we found out later in the game, they unleashed their season-long setup on the Browns.
    Def3a_medium

    This was the first end-around attempt to Jeffery, and they actually handed the ball off to him. ILB Craig Robertson is the key guy who spots it and will shoot in to disrupt the play. ILB D'Qwell Jackson (circled) fights off his man and will also be there for support.
    Def3b_medium

    Jeffery is trapped and gets taken down for a loss of three yards.

  8. Campbell's Lame-Duck INT to Cameron: I guess QB Jason Campbell is pretty bad when it's windy out, eh? Faced with a 2nd-and-5 in the second quarter, Campbell just tosses a lollipop up for TE Jordan Cameron, and the defense is waiting.
    Off3a_medium

    Cameron is lined up in the slot, running the out-and-up. We have a receiver doing a dig route at the top of the screen as well.
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    Look at the position of the defensive back covering Cameron: he is not fooled, and is already running down the field when he sees Campbell winding up. The defender sees the pass coming before Cameron ever does. If the pass is thrown on the outside, maybe Cameron makes a great play or is at least able to break it up. The ball stays way inside, though, which means the defender is actually able to shield Cameron off.

  9. Cutler's Overthrow Cost Him a TD: Two series later, the Browns' defense got their second interception of the game, this time for a touchdown.
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    Funny enough, if you look at the personnel and this route combination, it's almost identical to what the Bears ran on their first interception. CB Buster Skrine is in the cyan circle near the line of scrimmage, while FS Tashaun Gipson is in center field.
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    Skrine starts trying to backpedal, but then stumbles a bit, perhaps realizing that there's no one for him to guard but the guy who just ran by him (WR Brandon Marshall). Gipson is still pretty far away.
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    The throw is well high again, and Marshall can only tip it. The tip lands in the arms of Gipson, who returns it 44 yards for a touchdown, giving the Browns a 10-3 lead.

  10. Barnidge Left Unguarded Again: After the Browns got fortunate on defense (a false start turned a 4th-and-1 try into a field goal try, and a holding penalty turned the field goal try into a punt), the Browns saw TE Gary Barnidge completely unguarded for the second week in a row.
    Off4a_medium

    Barnidge is at the tight end position to QB Jason Campbell's right. He is just running a five-yard comeback route, but it works because the Bears bring a six-man blitz, with all of the heat coming from Campbell's left. The only defender near Barnidge -- a linebacker in the green circle -- is trying to undercut a route by TE Jordan Cameron.
    Off4b_medium

    Campbell delivers the throw to Barnidge, who has enough space to go for 17 yards on the catch-and-run.

  11. Missing Another Opportunity for Gordon: Facing a 3rd-and-4 with under two minutes to go, the Browns were hoping to go into the half with a two-possession lead.
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    The person to pay attention to here is WR Josh Gordon (of course), who is at the top of the screen running a dig route. You can tell by the cyan circles that I drew just how much space Gordon is going to have when he makes his break.
    Off5b_medium

    Campbell spots Gordon and fires. If he connect, Gordon could very well take this for a touchdown, based on what we've seen from him in space. If we're being conservative, maybe he gets to the 30 yard line. Either way, it would've put Cleveland into field goal range.
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    Fans might not have thought the pass was difficult to catch, but when you look at the angle above, you can see just how far away from the outstretched arms of Gordon the pass was.
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    Meanwhile, right after that play, FOX broke to a gamebreak showing QB Kirk Cousins throwing a touchdown pass over two defenders, with Gordon also being shown in the split screen. Torture.

    Cleveland had to punt, and WR Brandon Marshall made some nice plays on CB Joe Haden, tying the game at 10-10 heading into the half.

  12. Forcing a Throw That Isn't There: Facing a 1st-and-15 on the second play of the third quarter, QB Jason Campbell threw a pick six that gave the Bears their first lead of the game.
    Off56a_medium

    The target here is WR Greg Little, who is at the top of the screen.
    Off56b_medium

    No one is particularly open, but for some reason, Campbell picks this play to finally be decisive about a throw. Again, with the ball in the air, we have a situation where the defensive back sees the ball coming and is able to jump the route, while our receiver hasn't even turned around yet. When

  13. Wildcat Finally Sparks the Offense: After the pick six, the Browns needed a lift offensively, and TE MarQueis Gray provided it from the Wildcat (or whatever you want to call it).
    Off6a_medium

    The Browns actually ran the Wildcat on the previous play, and it went for 18 yards. When they ran it on the next play, it went for 12 yards. QB Jason Campbell initially lined up in front of Gray, but then he motioned to the sideline. WR Greg Little is next to Grey in the backfield, as is RB Edwin Baker.
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    The two defenders in the yellow circle are going to pursue Baker all the way. When Little blocks No. 21, Gray has a lot of room to run.
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    There's the development of the play. The Browns never had a chance to go back to it, but on the next play, Baker ran in for a touchdown to tie the game.

  14. Gispon Misjudges the Prayer to Jeffery: The Browns re-took the lead, 24-17, after SS T.J. Ward's fumble return for a touchdown.
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    Two drives later, in the fourth quarter, the Bears were facing a 3rd-and-11 from midfield. I have skipped to the part where Jeffery is running deep to the corner, and Cutler is getting ready to throw up a prayer. FS Tashaun Gipson is already back there, and SS Jordan Poyer is sprinting toward the end zone. 
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    This boils down to Gipson just misjudging the ball. He camps at the five yard line, and Poyer overruns the ball because he was chasing Jeffery, not the ball.
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    This is not what you want to see your defender doing. In fact, it kind of reminds you of...
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    ...that. The touchdown tied the game at 24-24, when it should have just been the Bears punting and Cleveland still having a lead.

  15. Short at the Sticks Seals the Deal: The 15-yard penalty on OLB Jabaal Sheard meant that Cleveland had to start their next possession backed up in their own territory.
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    Cleveland faced a 3rd-and-14 right away, which is certainly not an easy conversion to make. Based on the coverage shown above, you can see that WR Josh Gordon, who is at the bottom of the screen, is going to be open.
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    QB Jason Campbell sees Gordon and fires, but just like earlier in the game, the pass is inaccurate. Gordon goes to his knees to try to scoop the ball, but it just barely hits the ground in front of him, falling incomplete. Gordon could have run back to the ball to catch it, but that would have taken his momentum the wrong way, and he likely would have been tackled shy of a first down. 

  16. Defending the Jeffery End-Around, Part II: With the Bears' season on the line and the game tied 24-24, the Bears finally used the season-long overuse of the Jeffery reverse/end-around to their advantage. 
    Def8a_medium

    Facing a 1st-and-10 at the 25, the Browns sent Jeffery in motion and snapped the ball as if QB Jay Cutler was going to hand off to him. He then flipped the ball to RB Matt Forte, but with OLB Barkevious Mingo taking an inside angle, the Bears have two blockers to hit both of our defenders, and Forte gains 19 yards.
    Def8b_medium

    There's the development of what I described. A few plays later, the Bears took the lead, 31-24.

  17. Defending the Jeffery End-Around, Part III: After the Browns punted, their defense needed a stop to give the offense one last chance. The Bears went right back to the same play -- faking to Jeffery and pitching to Forte -- similar to how the Browns used the Wildcat twice in a row in the third quarter.
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    The Browns play it differently this time, indicating man coverage perhaps. That actually leaves just one defender for Cleveland this time around instead of two defenders, so Forte is able to run for 24 yards.
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    Once again, there's the development of the play. The Bears got a 40-yard touchdown from RB Michael Bush on the next play, as Cleveland was selling out on the wrong side.

  18. One Cheer for History: With about a minute to go, WR Josh Gordon caught a pass down the sideline that went for a 43-yard touchdown. It tied a franchise record with Gordon having a touchdown reception in five consecutive games.
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    Gordon was in no mood to celebrate after the score. I like that he wants these records to mean something to the outcome, rather than just padding his own stats.

  19. Idea Behind the Onside Kick: I'm usually not a fan of onside kicks that go long down the field, because I don't know if I've ever seen one recovered. With that said, this wasn't a bad attempt by the Browns. With only a minute left in the game and no timeouts, Cleveland needed to get as close to the end zone as possible without time running off.
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    The Browns have two potential kickers and three other players on the left, right, and in the middle. The Bears have one extra fielder at the bottom of the screen.
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    The Bears put WR Brandon Marshall back there for a reason, but look where he's at. There's a chance he could have booted this. If he did, we had two defenders who could have pounced on it, and we would have already been in field goal range.

  20. Special Teams Tackles: There were five special teams tackles by the Browns with one each by OLB Eric Martin, OLB Paul Hazel, CB Buster Skrine, K Billy Cundiff, and P Spencer Lanning.

  21. Snap Counts on Offense & Defense: If you missed them, here are the links to our snap count trackers for offense (link) and defense (link). On offense, RB Edwin Baker had a surprising amount of reps at running back, and OG Garrett Gilkey played three snaps. On defense, SS T.J. Ward continued to play a lot of reps at inside linebacker, and DE Billy Winn saw a big uptick in reps.

  22. Brownies: The Browns were just 3-of-9 (33%) on third down. ... The Bears had the ball for 35 minutes, compared to just 25 minutes for Cleveland. ... I think the late penalties called on CB Leon McFadden and CB Buster Skrine were more justified this week. ... RB Fozzy Whittaker has been getting much less appealing on kickoffs, and his backfield carries already faded to RB Edwin Baker. ... Devin Hester had a couple of nice returns against Cleveland.

Up next, the Browns take on the Jets. The season is almost over, so we'll see if the players are just ready to pack it in for next season already.

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