CLEVELAND -- Three factors played important roles in the Cleveland Browns 38-31 loss to Chicago on Sunday. And the first came with the flip of the coin before kickoff.
The Browns won the toss, but instead of taking the ball they chose to defer. That gave the Bears the ball first, and the Browns the choice to start the second half. It’s not an uncommon decision these days.
And once the Browns kicked off to start the game, there was no way they were going to give the ball to the Bears to start the second half. Rob Chudzinski chose to receive.
Bears coach Marc Trestman wisely chose to take the wind in the fourth quarter. And that wind was strong -- blowing from east to west right across the field.
Any pass that was thrown into the wind died, like a key third-and-10 throw to Josh Gordon with the Browns down seven in the fourth quarter. Any thrown with the wind sailed, like a couple of Jay Cutler’s early throws.
One Browns defender said the Bears never threw long going into the wind, but did take chances throwing with it.
File that little thought.
That sent Haden to the locker room, and put rookie Leon McFadden in the game. McFadden was targeted a week ago in crunch time by Tom Brady in New England, and Cutler went after him too, throwing a deep ball to Jeffery from his own five.
McFadden ran into Jeffrey as he tried to come back and was called for pass interference, a call the Browns disputed.
“Not a PI at all,“ safety Tashaun Gipson said. “I watched the whole time. I’m running over there and he snapped his head around at the appropriate time. If I was a ref I wouldn’t have called it. I think he had good coverage. Of course I’m going to say that, but I truly believe it.”
On the next play, with the wind, Cutler again threw deep to Marshall, who had used a double-move to elude Buster Skrine. Skrine did the wise thing and grabbed Marshall, giving up a five-yard holding penalty to save six points.
Six plays later, Cutler threw deep again to Jeffery, this time covered by Julian Posey, who if everyone were healthy would be the fifth corner.
Cutler was hit in the head as he threw -- it would have been roughing the passer regardless -- but still got the ball off. He thought it was a duck, and it was. But the duck flew farther than anyone thought possible.
Gipson settled under the ball at about the three, but the ball suddenly sailed past him where Jeffery made an athletic catch.
Gipson tried to leap and knock it down, but the ball went past him.
“The ball seemed to literally sail over my head,” he said.
Thanks to the wind.
Who knows how things work out, but had the Browns taken the ball to start the game they could have forced the Bears to throw into the wind in the fourth quarter.
The Browns didn’t.
The Bears had the wind.
Haden was injured.
Chicago had the big receivers -- the third factor.
And the Bears were able to take advantage on some key plays en route to a victory.