They were also second in the AFC North Division just two games back of the Baltimore Ravens and mathematically had a chance to win their very first North Division crown. The idea is fun to look out and discuss, but honestly, the Ravens are a freakin’ good football team. It would not be out of anyone’s range to spit out Ravens-49ers/Cowboys for this year’s Super Bowl.
Back to Chicago, the Bears are one of those clubs that appear pretty bad until they meet a good team whose hopes are aiming for the playoffs. They can play disruptor without any thoughts of damaging or worrying about what their high draft pick slot will ultimately become in 2024. Are the Bears finally living up to their potential as they have won their last two games? During that stretch, QB Justin Fields has not tossed a pick and has a 65.7% completion rating.
The two clubs have the exact opposite records coming into this contest with Cleveland 8-5-0 and Chicago 5-8-0. The Bears have only beaten one squad with a winning record as they bested the NFC North Division leader Detroit Lions 28-13 last week in a game that wasn’t that close.
Me and my daaawgs— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 17, 2023
We gave 'em two in a row ✌️ pic.twitter.com/kdgLH78qwQ
The Browns came into this game pretty banged up and without a slew of starting players with an emphasis on their defense. In the end, Cleveland made a miraculous comeback behind 17-7 to defeat the Bears 20-17, then held off a late go-ahead touchdown attempt.
With three games left, it appears Cleveland will make the playoffs and if so, they will be the third team ever (1988 Browns, 2015 Houston Texans) to become a playoff club using four QBs in a single season.
So who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
Play of the game - 1:02 left in the game tied 17-all. Cleveland with the ball on Chicago’s 47 facing a third-and-15. Flacco dropped back to pass, heavy rush as usual. He looks right, then left, then double-pumps. Next, he flings the ball high with a soft arch as DE Josh Sweat is once again in his face. TE David Njoku is all alone, but can he make the first down marker? He does just as safety Eddie Jackson closes but does not get him down until after he has made 34 yards to Chicago’s 19-yard line. Eight plays later and 24 precious seconds off the clock, K Dustin Hopkins does what Dustin Hopkins does and nails a 34-yard field goal for the win.
LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - Was everywhere today. Early in the first quarter, he brought down RB Khalil Herbert for a one-yard gain after JOK filled the hole. With 12:12 left in the second quarter, he became the 12th man which negated a good stop by the defensive line. Was able to knock down the Hail Mary at the end of the first half. His sack with just over six minutes left to play after he beat FB Khari Blasingame placed the Bears back another 11 yards and into a now third-and-18 situation which was huge and forced yet another punt. Led all tacklers with six and had one QB hit, two batted passes, two tackles for loss to go with his single sack.
S D’Anthony Bell - Started the game in place of the injured Juan Thornhill and shined. It began early. In the first quarter, RB D’Onta Foreman found a wide-open hole and it looked like paydirt only to have Bell come across and level him for just a two-yard gain. Then Bell forced QB Justin Fields into a sack with 3:40 left before the half when he rushed and forced Fields into the waiting arms of DE Alex Wright on a third-and-eight. Early in the third quarter, one of the few punt returns it was Bell who pushed KR Trent Taylor out after a short gain. With 15 ticks left in the game, Bell held RB Roschon Johnson to an incompletion. Then Bell had the pick on the final play of the game, ran it out of the end zone, and wisely downed it to end the game instead of possibly fumbling the game away. Finished with five tackles, one tackle for loss, and one batted pass. Nice job.
TE David Njoku - Barely heard his name called in the first quarter, but he made up for it in the second quarter with a magnificent touchdown grab over the shoulder of safety Jaquan Brisker at the back of the end zone. The second half was basically “The Cleveland Browns featuring David Njoku Show.” He caught two short passes that eventually got them in field goal range in the third quarter. On a 1-10 with 3:34 left in the third quarter, he caught a nice short pass to the right for six yards but appeared he would be able to beat one man but was tackled instead. On Cleveland’s final drive, he grabbed a short pass that gained 31 yards to Chicago’s 48 and got the Browns thinking points could be achieved. Then there was the play in the fourth quarter mentioned above which placed the offense in field goal range. On the third Joe Flacco interception, Njoku was wide open coming off the line to which Flacco looked in his direction too late. 10 catches for 104 yards on 14 targets.
DE Alex Wright - Had a key sack/fumble in the first quarter only to have Chicago jump on the loose karoom. In the fourth quarter, Wright was able to smother WR Tyler Scott on the end around for a good loss which led to a punt. Had four tackles.
Second-half defense - Although it appeared that Chicago had the game in hand up 17-7 for the longest time, this defensive unit not only did not give up, they ramped up. In the second half, the Bears’ offensive possessions were punt, field goal, punt, turnover on downs, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception. Absolutely no quit despite missing all those key players. It was just the next-man-up mentality. Eight three-and-outs for the entire game. Wow.
K Dustin Hopkins - Two for two on-field goals, 2-2 on PATs is his norm. But probably his best function was right after he kicked the 34-yard game-winner with just :32 left in the game. His kickoff was a minus-9 which meant the Bears had zero chance of running it out and perhaps taking it back.
Fourth down plays - Cleveland made their lone attempt on a fourth-and-two on a great effort by Ford who appeared he would be caught for a loss instead. In the meanwhile, the Bears went for the marker on their fourth-and-three near midfield and were stuffed.
DT Dalvin Tomlinson - What a maniac he was. Losing two defensive line teammates got him going as he had a monster day. He flat-out beat Darnell Scott late in the first quarter and almost sacked Fields before he had a chance for any progressions. Early in the second quarter, Tomlinson did a nice swim move to move past RG Nate Davis to catch Foreman for a three-yard loss. Early in the third quarter, it was Tomlinson who bull-rushed Davis and forced Fields to just ditch the ball. Right before the fourth quarter, he nailed Herbert for no gain. Second in tackles today with six, two tackles for loss and two QB hits.
WR Marquise Goodwin - One target, one catch: 57 yards. Okay, we’re buying it.
WR Amari Cooper - Was having an average game until his touchdown catch and run lit up the stadium crowd as well as every other Browns sports bar and household. Just four catches, but he gained 109 yards with eight targets.
Passing game - Chicago’s 24th-ranked passing defense was certainly the game plan, and it worked very well, especially in the second half. Two receivers over 100 yards and 379 yards total for the game on just 44 throws.
Missed opportunities - How many times did the Browns have an opportunity to score, or get the ball back in good field position and then blow it up? Anyone? Late in the first quarter, CB Martin Emerson dropped an interception in Chicago’s end. DE Myles Garrett missed the sack of Fields who then threw a touchdown pass. CB Greg Newsome dropped an easy pick at the Bears’ 15-yard line and might have walked in. Why on earth did the Browns challenge that catch? Everyone at home saw two feet in with possession before the red laundry was thrown. OG Michael Dunn had a holding call that negated a good Jerome Ford run. Both CB Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome acted like the game was touch football on Chicago’s final drive which almost put them in field goal range. After the fumble recovery by LB Mohamound Diabate, Njoku was wide open right out of his route, only to have Flacco see him late and throw a pick on the first play after the fumble recovery. Njoku would have scored.
Giveaways - Chicago ended the game with 17 points. The Browns gave up 14 on turnovers. Math does not lie.
RT James Hudson - It was unfortunate that Hudson got Montez Sweat to block. Wait, was unfortunate for Flacco that Hudson was stationed in front of Sweat. Hudson took a beating as Sweat was almost like a member of the offensive backfield all game. As the third quarter got to the halfway point, Sweat did a stunt to which Hudson followed, then saw Walker loop around with an unimpeded lane to the QB. With 9:03 left in the game, Hudson had no chance on Sweat who drove off the corner like a shot and had an easy sack back to the Browns’ 18-yard line. Sweat had 2.5 sacks of which all were because of Hudson, three QB hits, seven tackles, and one tackle for loss. At times either TE Harrison Bryant or Jordan Akins lined up and chipped Sweat which did seem to help, but when Hudson was all alone, it was jail break.
RG Wyatt Teller - Made a few good pulls for blocks but overall did not perform in the run game like he is known for. Had a holding call that negated a great gain off a screen by RB Pierre Strong, and later in the fourth quarter had a false start that made a first-and-10 become a first-and-15 to start a key drive. He did make the tackle off the interception that ended up on the two. The Browns could not run and Teller could not open holes.
LT Geron Christian - Had a steady first half but was not able to open running lanes to his inside all game. With 2:39 left in the third quarter, he completely whiffed on DE DeMarcus Walker who nailed Flacco at midfield which killed a good drive. Was fooled on one Bears stunt which forced Flacco to throw early. Then the untimely false start to begin the fourth quarter.
No running game - Coming into this game, the Bears were ranked #2 against the run and it showed. Cleveland could not get any traction at any time on the ground. None of the offensive linemen will have good run-blocking grades because the holes were filled instantly. 12 rushing yards for the Browns in the first half and 29 for the game. Ouch.
Making third downs - This offense does this every game. In the first half, the Browns converted 2-8, then finished with 3-16 for the game. Many a good drive died after third down.
Milk Bones – It’s all fun and games until Santa checks the naughty list
S Ronnie Hickman and LB Mohamound Diabate - Both rookies had key plays. As a special teams ace, Diabate jumped on the fumble at the 20-yard line by KR Taylor which unfortunately did not provide points after one play. With 4:55 left in the third quarter, Hickman destroyed WR D.J. Moore on a screen and seven minutes later, Herbert had a huge hole to which Hickman came up from his safety spot and tackled him for a minimal gain instead of chunks of real estate.
CB Martin Emerson - Had an early pass interference call on the second-and-goal when the ball wasn’t going to be caught. On a second-and-11 in the second quarter, he left Moore with a huge cushion who then gained a first down. Had six tackles.
DE Myles Garrett - Had his moments but did not dominate the game like he should against Chicago’s 26th-ranked passing attack. Nailed Herbert for a five-yard loss with just over three minutes in the game. Had a key pass knockdown in the third quarter for a wide-open safety valve pass in the left flats. His pressure on Fields with ten second left made the QB throw early and incomplete with set up the game’s final play instead of getting closer into field goal range.
Enjoying the fun and excitement this team brings right now.— Shelby Drive (@TheShelbyDrive) December 17, 2023
WR Cedric Tillman - Nothing fancy, but productive for the rookie. Had a nice catch with 4:31 left in the third quarter that kept a drive alive.
CB Greg Newsome - Early in the game he tackled TE Cole Kmet who appeared to be on a path for the first down but was stopped short. Then three minutes later knocked down a third-down pass. Was beaten for a key third-down play in the third quarter by Johnson which kept a scoring drive going. Four tackles, two batted passes with two tackles for loss.
QB Joe Flacco - First the dirt. His first interception was the result of Sweat beating Hudson and he had to toss it early. The problem was, there were three defenders in the area and the pass wasn’t even close to his target. This set up the Bears at the one-yard line. Five minutes later, an errant pass to Cooper was almost caught by CB Jaylon Johnson as Cooper played defender and swatted the ball away.
Another almost-pick happened on the Browns’ 20 with 6:57 left in the third quarter. He missed Njoku coming off the line wide open and instead tossed it late to which S Tyrique Stevenson had time to recover and came off his receiver to make the diving interception. With 1:37 left in the game, Flacco double-pumped to which Stevenson bit, and Njoku was able to get open and gain 31 yards to the Chicago 48. The interception by LB Tremaine Edwards was simply a bad series of bounces and is the reason all defenses practice the “tip drill.” The pass intended for Cooper for the TD was an absolute strike as was Goodwin’s long pass reception which Flacco waited patiently to develop. Flacco in the 4th quarter: 11-13 for 212 yards, one TD, four passes for 30 yards plus, and another game-winning drive. Flacco now has 26 game-winning fourth-quarter drives for his career and has two back-to-back 300-yard passing games with Cleveland. Finished with 28 completions on 44 attempts for 374 yards and was sacked four times with a Band-Aid offensive line.
Can the Browns go far in the playoffs with this offensive line?
This poll is closed
Coach Bill Callahan is a guru and will get them ready
I am worried
No, something must change