Have injuries finally caught up to the Browns? I guess not. It looked like the Bears were going to win this game with offensive miscues, but all of a sudden, Joe Flacco led a 10-point comeback in the fourth quarter to tie it, and then operated the two-minute drill to orchestrate a 20-17 victory! Let’s get to the full game recap.
With the rain falling, Cleveland got the ball first. Unlike the previous two weeks with QB Joe Flacco, the offense did not score on its opening possession. The team got one first down on a slant to WR Amari Cooper, but RB Jerome Ford being stuffed for a loss on second down after that stalled the drive. P Corey Bojorquez came on to pin the Bears back at the 16 yard line.
Cleveland’s defense forced a quick three-and-out on QB Justin Fields. On the other end, the drive started well when Ford had an 8-yard run on first down to get into Chicago territory. Flacco’s deep shot on second down was incomplete, and then on third down, Cleveland went jumbo formation with RB Kareem Hunt, and the Bears were all over it, stuffing it for a loss of a yard. Bojorquez came on again, sending Chicago back to the 17 yard line.
The Browns’ defense got another three-and-out, with the Bears’ offense not looking comfortable in the weather conditions. WR James Proche returned the punt 14 yards to their own 37 yard line. Cleveland was trying to advance, but a couple of penalties on RG Wyatt Teller prevented them from gaining traction. After the Browns’ punt, Chicago started at the 19 yard line now.
Fields got going through the air on his third drive. He began with an 8-yard pass to WR D.J. Moore. On second down, he heaved a deep pass to wide open TE Robert Tonyan, but with the wet conditions, he dropped the ball. On third down, Fields connected with Moore on a perfect 27-yard back shoulder dart up the left sideline.
The defense tightened up after that, though, including DE Alex Wright having a strip sack on third down. The Bears recovered and punted, with Cleveland now backed up to the 19 yard line.
The Browns’ offense went no where again, and even avoided disaster as Flacco’s second down fumble rolled to the sideline and out of bounds instead of the defense recovering it. Bojorquez only had a 39 yard punt, giving Chicago their best starting field position of the day at their own 40 yard line. After a false start on first down, Fields nearly threw an interception to M.J. Emerson, who couldn’t hang on along the boundary. Chicago faced a 3rd-and-10 as the first quarter concluded.
DE Za’Darius Smith chased down a screen pass from behind to force a punt to start the second quarter. The field position continued being switched, as now the Browns started back at the 9 yard line. The first big mistake of the came came from Cleveland’s offense. Flacco dropped back to throw on second down and let a pass go up the seam, but it went right into the arms of S Eddie Jackson, who returned it all the way to the 1 yard line.
The Browns’ defense was flagged several times to move the ball closer, but then after a stop on 1st-and-goal at the 1 yard line, a false start pushed the Bears back. An incompletion on second down set up 3rd-and-goal from the 6 yard line. DE Myles Garrett missed a sack, as Fields escaped the grasp. Fields then rolled left and found TE Cole Kmet in the back left corner of the end zone for a touchdown to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, RB Pierre Strong only returned the ball out to the 16 yard line, as LG Joel Bitonio remained out with a back injury. Flacco had a few dangerous throws that were nearly intercepted, including one that Cooper had to break up from the defense. But Flacco got hot, starting with a 42-yard pass to Cooper up the right side.
A few plays later, facing 4th-and-2 at the 19 yard line, the Browns went for it and said QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson onto the field. DTR swung a pass out to Ford in the flat, and he made a man miss to gain 5 yards and a first down.
Flacco then found WR Cedric Tillman for 13 yards, down to the 1 yard line. Hunt was hit for a loss of 1 yard on first down, but on 2nd-and-goal from the 2, Flacco rolled out and fired a pass to TE David Njoku, who made a fantastic catch in the back of the end zone for the touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
Cleveland’s defense stayed on track on the next drive, but CB Greg Newsome just missed a pick six as Fields’ third down pass attempt was off target. The Browns offense got the ball back with 2:18 to go at the 28 yard line. Flacco threw an 11-yard pass to WR Elijah Moore back across the field heading into the two-minute warning.
A hold by LG Michael Dunn stalled the drive a bit, but on third down, Tillman was jammed toward the out of bounds direction, preventing a third down connection. Bojorquez pinned the Bears back at the 2 yard line with 0:59 to go. Cleveland only had one timeout left, and they used it after stopping Chicago after a gain of three yards. On second down, though, the Bears broke a 22-yard run. A couple plays later, Fields found Moore for 20 yards over the middle and took a timeout. Chicago managed to set up a 1st-and-10 from the Browns’ 44 yard line with 0:22 remaining.
A few plays later, S Ronnie Hickman made a diving deflection to prevent the Bears from getting closer to field goal range. On 4th-and-3 from the 37 yard line, Chicago passed up on a 54-yard field goal attempt and went for a Hail Mary to end the half, which was intercepted in the end zone by LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
DT Shelby Harris started the third quarter with a bang, exploding through the line on first down to stuff a run for a loss of four yards. On second down, Harris timed the snap and forced an immediate hold (which the Browns declined). The pressure got to Fields on third down, who threw an incomplete pass, leading to a punt and Cleveland having good starting field position at their own 40 yard line.
The Bears’ defense made the difference in all their points on the next play — Flacco threw a short pass over the middle to Tillman, but he was popped and the ball ricocheted right into the hands of LB Tremaine Edmunds, who returned it 45 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead with 13:50 to go in the third quarter.
Unlike in the first half when the offense had a touchdown drive as a response, they went three-and-out after the turnover as Flacco’s short crosser to Njoku was hit by the defense immediately, shy of a first down. The Bears’ offense got the ball at the 30 yard line after a punt. They drove the ball in range for a 41-yard field goal by K Cairo Santos, who hit it to give Chicago a 17-7 lead with 7:07 remaining in the quarter.
The rain continued falling again, and it led to Flacco’s second down pass sailing incomplete for Cooper up the seam, and then on third down, he took a sack for a loss of 10 yards. Bojorquez came on to punt, with Chicago getting good starting field position at the 42 yard line. The defense held strong this time, forcing a three-and-out, including Garrett tipping a third down pass. After the punt, the Browns took back over at the 30 yard line. A short pass over the middle to Tillman picked up 19 yards. They couldn’t drive any further, though, and sent the punt unit out. Chicago muffed the punt, and LB Mohamoud Diabate recovered at the 20 yard line!
On first down, Flacco went playaction and Njoku was free up the seam. Flacco threw it, but a bit low and unbalanced, allowing a defender to come from his zone and make a heck of a diving interception, returning it out to the 35 yard line and crushing the Browns’ spirits.
The Bears then had back-to-back designed quarterback runs with Fields to go for 8 and 15 yards. Chicago faced a 4th-and-1 from the Browns’ 33 yard line heading
The Bears decided to go for it to start the fourth quarter. Fields had the keeper, but CB Cameron Mitchell swiped him from behind on the sweep, and Fields fell just short of a first down, resulting in a turnover on downs and still giving Cleveland some hope. Flacco started the drive with a 57-yard bomb to WR Marquise Goodwin, getting the ball right to the Bears’ 15 yard line.
That was followed by a 5-yard stick to Njoku, setting up 2nd-and-5. A 10-yard penalty on Dunn on the next run play pushed them back to a 2nd-and-13 at the 18 yard line. Cleveland could only manage to get into field goal range, as K Dustin Hopkins came on and connected from 33 yards out to make it a 17-10 game with 12:27 remaining.
The Bears faced a 3rd-and-1 to start their next drive, and they tried a fly sweep that Wright read perfectly and swallowed up for a 3-yard loss! Proche made a fair catch at the 25 yard line, sending Flacco and company back on the field with 10:35 to go.
The offense wasn’t successful this time, as Flacco was sacked on second down by DL Montez Sweat, and C Nick Harris also exited with an injury. The Browns punted back to the Bears at the 33 yard line with 8:39 to go. The Bears were able to burn three minutes off the clock, but the defense still forced a punt as Chicago punted to the end zone for a touchback. Flacco would get another crack at a comeback with 5:18 remaining.
The drive started with a 3rd-and-2 situation. Hunt got the handoff to move the chains, but the clock ticked a full minute off with just one first down. The next play was a little trick play between Hunt and Flacco that led to Hunt getting a 12-yard gain. That was followed by a 6-yard pass to Njoku to get close to midfield. So much for taking too long to score — on the next play, Flacco threaded the needle on the right to Cooper, whose catch-and-run went 51 yards for a touchdown! Hopkins’ extra point knotted things up at 17-17 with 3:08 remaining.
right down the sideline!!— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 17, 2023
beauty of a ball from Joe pic.twitter.com/GTdUrIcfRb
The Browns’ defense forced a three-and-out, and Chicago would have to punt at the two-minute warning! Chicago got a nice punt off, to the 21 yard line.
The drive started with Njoku being wide open on the right side, going for 31 yards into Chicago territory! Njoku had an offensive offsides call after that, making it 1st-and-15. On 3rd-and-15, Flacco faced a blitz and he lofted the ball up to Njoku, who caught it for a 34-yard catch-and-run to the 19 yard line!
Hunt ran the ball twice and Flacco slid once to force Chicago to burn all three timeouts. Hopkins came on for a 34-yard field goal, and he drilled it to give the Browns a 20-17 lead with 0:32 to go — their first lead of the game!
Now, with no timeouts, it would be up to Fields to pull off a Houdini act to try to get Chicago into field goal range. On first down, Fields had a man open for a possible 20-yard gain, but he couldn’t make the leaping catch. Garrett and Smith also collided on the play, with Smith going down and having to exit. On second down, Fields found Scott up the sidelines, and he somehow skated past the defense and stayed in bounds for a 30-yard gain to the 45 yard line.
An incompletion on first down made only 10 seconds left, meaning Chicago needed a sideline pass to stop the clock to be able to try a field goal. On second down, Fields threw an incomplete pass, and now only 5 seconds remained, meaning Chicago would have to try a Hail Mary for the win. After a tip in the pile, the ball landed in the Bears’ lap on the ground, but he kicked the ball out of his own body, and it then ricocheted up to the Browns for an interception. Holy $%#@, but the Browns hang on.
Up next, the Browns travel to Houston to take on the Texans on Christmas Eve.
- QB Joe Flacco: 28-of-44 for 374 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT.
- RB Jerome Ford: 8 carries, 20 yards.
- WR Amari Cooper: 4 catches, 109 yards, 1 TD.
- TE David Njoku: 10 catches, 104 yards, 1 TD.