The job of a quarterback is to find the open man. That may require particularly good decision-making on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, who are No. 2 behind only Seattle for fewest passing yards per attempt and allow just 10.1 yards per completion.
The Bears have gotten a 100-yard receiving game out of either Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall or both in all but three games this season. But the Browns’ pass defense is anchored by Joe Haden, an aggressive cornerback with similarities to the Bears’ Charles Tillman.
Haden is the third-highest-rated corner the Bears will have faced to this point, behind only Pittsburgh’s William Gay and Cincinnati’s Leon Hall, and the Steelers were one of the three teams to hold the Bears without a 100-yard receiver this season.
“He covers well in man-to-man coverage,” said coach Marc Trestman. “He takes chances, but oftentimes those chances are very successful. He’s a physical guy at the line of scrimmage. He’s not afraid to get his hands on you and he can make plays certainly. He’s one of their difference makers and we’re well aware of that.”
Haden is allowing a passer rating of 71.0 on throws into his area, a number in the general range of elites like Seattle’s Richard Sherman and Tampa Bay’s Darrelle Revis, according to evaluations by Pro Football Focus.
He and fellow corner Buster Skrine are allowing sub-56-percent completion rates on throws against them.
What to look for: Recognizing how the Browns deploy Haden, tied for second in the NFL with four interceptions, and safety T.J. Ward, their second-leading tackler, will be a primary task of quarterback Jay Cutler. The Bears and Denver Broncos, the NFL’s top passing and scoring offense, are the only teams with two 1,000-yard receivers, and Jeffery has joined Marshall among the top physical receivers in the game.
“[Jeffery] is a hard cover one-on-one because he can go deep, he’s got a really good short range, in and out of cuts, so he’s tough,” Cutler said. “He’s tough to deal with. You’ve got Brandon on the other side, so you kind of have to pick your poison.”