Beyond the yardage and points totals, Bears coaches may have done one of their better jobs last week keeping a vulnerable team on target and on message, amid a quarterback change and with its playoff life at issue.
“I don’t think our coaches get enough credit,” said wide receiver Brandon Marshall. “You hear everyone, this whole week, there has been a lot of noise, a lot of distractions…. Our coaches don’t get a lot of credit. They work hard and put us in position to be successful, and that’s tough.”
The offense shook off Jay Cutler’s early rust (translation: “interception”) problems and powered to 440 total yards – the fourth straight game the Bears have gone for more than 400 yards.
The offensive balance was consistent, finishing with 36 pass plays (including Cutler’s three scrambles) and 28 run plays against a Cleveland defense ranked fourth in rush yards allowed per game and eighth in pass yards. The Bears converted nine of 14 third downs using all of their primary receivers for at least one.
Special teams implemented a savvy tactic in the second half after the Browns were called for roughing the passer on a Cutler touchdown pass. With the 15 yards assessed on the kickoff, Robbie Gould pooched the kickoff inside the 10, and with the shortened distance because of the penalty, the coverage unit was able to pin Cleveland inside its 15. The defense provided a stop, Devin Hester returned the ensuing punt 21 yards to the Cleveland 36 and the offense scored six plays later.
The defense did nothing quirky to cope with Cleveland receiver Josh Gordon, leading the NFL with 1,400 yards coming into Sunday. But what coaches did do was mix cover-2, cover-3 and other looks to force quarterback Jason Campbell out of any comfort zone and look for someone other than Gordon, who was controlled with only two catches for 24 yards through three quarters.
The defensive front seven appeared lost dealing with several Browns “wildcat” formations and runs but adjustments overall kept the Browns to 93 yards, the first time since New Orleans on Oct. 6 that an opponent has failed to rush for more than 100 yards.
Penalties were an appalling part of the first half, with three pre-snap infractions plus a holding call that took away a made field goal. Alshon Jeffery committed one of the false starts and added an illegal shift in the third quarter. The discipline appeared to return in the second half overall.
Moon's Grade: A-