NFL Nation: 2013 Week 15 CHI at CLE

CLEVELAND -- Naturally, nobody on the Chicago Bears defense walked away from Sunday's 38-31 win over the Cleveland Browns totally satisfied with the way they performed.

But for once, they weren't answering questions about the defense giving away games.

[+] EnlargeZack Bowman
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsZack Bowman had two picks and a score in Chicago's win over Cleveland.
"It feels good, actually," said cornerback Zack Bowman, who finished with two interceptions, including one he returned 43 yards for a touchdown. "Obviously there are things we've got to do better. But after the game, nobody was talking about it. We got the win."

The defense also accomplished some of the objectives outlined during the week at practices and meetings.

Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker set goals for the defense to hold the Browns to fewer than 100 yards rushing (they finished with 93), 17 points or fewer, and generate takeaways.

"I think we hit two of those," defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff said. "It's a good start. Not to try to take away from the effort, but we need to win the turnover battle."

The Bears definitely won the matchup against Browns receiver Josh Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron. Gordon had racked up 774 yards receiving in the four games prior to Sunday's, but with Tim Jennings as the primary man in coverage, the receiver caught just three passes (despite being targeted 10 times) for 67 yards and a touchdown. The majority of Gordon's receiving yardage came on a 43-yard score in trash time.

Cameron, meanwhile, was coming off a game against the New England Patriots last week in which he produced a career-high 121 yards receiving, which marked his second 100-yard game of the season. Against the Bears, however, Cameron caught three passes for 23 yards.

For two weeks in a row, Jennings has drawn the likes of Dez Bryant and Gordon and has limited them to a total of 79 yards on six receptions, with each scoring only one touchdown.

"It's unbelievable. This is two weeks in a row," Bowman said. "He had Dez last week, and he had Gordon this week. I'm just speechless, man. He's one of the best corners in the NFL."

The job Jennings did on Gordon played a significant role in Chicago's success against the Browns. Gordon didn't catch a pass until the first play of the second half.

"Just to try to limit those guys from making the big plays was huge. Coach has done a good job of mixing it up, giving a Cover-2 look, Cover-3 look, man-to-man look. So anytime we can mix it up to try to take those guys out of the game, we've got a good chance to try to win," Jennings said. "Our D-line and the guys are starting to click. We're putting some pressure on the quarterback and making him get the ball out quicker. So we're able to take those big-play receivers out of the game a little bit."

The Bears failed to sack Browns quarterback Jason Campbell, but the forced him to throw faster than he wanted, resulting in errant passes picked off by Bowman.

Bowman's 43-yard interception return for a touchdown with 13:48 left in the third quarter marked the sixth time the Bears scored a touchdown on defense. The club has now won 12 consecutive outings in which they've scored on defense. The Bears are now 26-2 since 2005 in games they score a defensive touchdown.

Bowman's first pick of the game came on a pass intended for Cameron.

"When we score on defense, we win games," Bowman said.

Chicago also snuffed out the run, which is an accomplishment for the NFL's 32nd-ranked rush defense facing a Cleveland rushing attack that ranked No. 27. The Bears prevented a team from finishing with a 100-yard rusher on Sunday for the first time since Oct. 20, when they limited Alfred Morris to 95 yards.

The game also marked the first time since Oct. 6 the Bears kept a team to fewer than 100 total rushing yards.

Linebacker James Anderson was credited with a team-high 11 tackles, to go with a quarterback hit and a pass breakup.

"It was definitely good," defensive end Corey Wootton said. "A big point of emphasis was keeping them under 100 yards. I thought for the most part, except for a play here or there, we played pretty good run defense. It was good to have Rat[liff] in there. He made some really good plays. It was definitely a good performance stopping the run."

Can it continue? It's not likely against a red-hot Philadelphia Eagles rushing attack led by LeSean McCoy. But the Bears feel like they've at least now set a standard, according to Ratliff, who was credited with two tackles, including one for lost yardage and three quarterback hits.

"We know we can get three-and-outs and hold a team to under 100, and hold them to 17 points or less," Ratliff said. "So now, it's a standard now. That's something we're expecting out of ourselves. If we want to be the defense we really want to be, there's some things we need to get done. That's holding a team to under 100 yards rushing, holding a team to 17 points or less, and of course winning the turnover battle."
CLEVELAND -- Josh Gordon attributed little of his 67-yard, three-catch day to the Chicago Bears doing something creative on defense.

"That's the surprising part," Gordon said after the Browns' 38-31 loss. "They just played Cover 2, pretty basic defense. We just missed a few plays."

A frustrating day for Gordon concluded with him making a touchdown reception with 59 seconds left, turning and walking right to the Browns' bench.

"The coming-from-behind thing takes a toll on you," Gordon said.

[+] EnlargeJosh Gordon
AP Photo/Tony DejakJosh Gordon and the Browns passing offense never got on track against the Bears.
After Gordon and tight end Jordan Cameron were so productive in New England -- 16 catches for 272 yards and two touchdowns -- they combined for six catches for 90 yards against the Bears.

And in the first half, Gordon had one pass thrown to him -- which ticked off his fingertips as he tried to reach, wide open over the middle.

"It's just frustrating," Gordon said. "But it's a part of the game. Sometimes we click a little earlier, sometimes we don't."

"It's one of those things," Cameron said. "The options weren't there and we got to take advantage of them when they are."

Gordon had an NFL-record 774 receiving yards over the previous four weeks, which makes any game he doesn't get under 100 noteworthy. The 67 yards were his third-lowest total in a game this season.

He had a couple times he couldn't make a catch, a couple times Jason Campbell missed him and other times Campbell didn't go to him.

The Browns said the slow start was because they only had the ball six plays in the first quarter.

"It wasn't for a lack of trying or a lack of wanting to get Josh the ball," coach Rob Chudzinski said, adding that sometimes a player gets the ball in spurts (in New England, 109 of Gordon's yards came in the second half).

"As a quarterback you are always trying to get him involved," Campbell said. "In the first quarter, I'm not sure how many plays we had, maybe three or six. So we never really got a rhythm going early in the game. As a rhythm team you tend to score more points and get everyone involved, but you look up and the end of the first quarter has already come and gone."

Gordon, though, is by far the Browns' best player.

And on a third down from the Bears' 18-yard line in the first quarter, Campbell chose to throw underneath to Davone Bess instead to the corner of the end zone to Gordon, who was open.

Bess dropped the ball, and the Browns got a field goal.

By the fourth quarter Gordon was gesturing in frustration as third-down throws were broken up. By game's end Gordon had been targeted 10 times, Chicago's Brandon Marshall 13. Gordon touched the ball three times, newly signed running back Edwin Baker 12.

On Saturday, Gordon was involved in a minor car accident on an interstate outside Cleveland when his car had to swerve to avoid a skidding car in front of him. His car needed to be towed off the icy highway.

Nobody was injured.

Gordon said the accident was scary, but it had nothing to do with the game, just like he said the wind, cold and bad footing had nothing to do with it.

For the first time in a while, he simply did not have a superstar's game.

Josh McCown 'proud' of Jay Cutler

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
6:03
PM ET
CLEVELAND -- Josh McCown didn't rebound from a horrid start Sunday to help the Chicago Bears rally and defeat the Cleveland Browns 38-31, but the backup celebrated as if he'd done it because he was so proud of Jay Cutler.

Backup QB McCown had started the last four games and performed surprisingly well. Yet the Bears opted to pull the reins from his hands and give the starting job back to Cutler, who tossed two picks early Sunday, including one returned for a touchdown, before bouncing back with three scoring strikes to lead Chicago to victory.

Despite relinquishing the starting job, McCown called Sunday perhaps his proudest moment working with Cutler.

"There was a lot swirling around this thing, building up to this week," McCown said. "You try to block it out as much as possible, but you understand it's out there. At the same time, we were focused on just getting this game. Understanding everything around it, then to start the way he did, I'm just very, very proud of him, man. Proud to call him my teammate, proud to call him our quarterback, and proud to call him my friend. What he did, just the resolve and the toughness to do what he did today is probably one of the most proud moments I've had this whole year."

[+] EnlargeChicago's Josh McCown and Jay Cutler
AP Photo/David Richard"I'm just very, very proud of him, man," Josh McCown said of Jay Cutler. "Proud to call him my teammate, proud to call him our quarterback, and proud to call him my friend."
With McCown winning two of his four starts filling in as the starter and throwing for 1,271 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception for a passer rating of 109.8 (No. 3 in the NFL), there was speculation about whether the backup was actually the better option for the Bears. The debate gained intensity Thursday when Bears coach Marc Trestman named Cutler the starter for Sunday's matchup.

Cutler's first offensive series against the Browns resulted in an interception to Tashaun Gipson on a pass intended for Brandon Marshall. In the second quarter, Cutler tossed another pick to Gipson, who returned it 44 yards for a touchdown to give Cleveland a 10-3 lead.

"I told him he was gonna be alright," McCown said. "It's just silly things happen. You're off a little bit, or the receiver's off. Things happen, and it's not what happened as much as how you respond to what happened. That's why I'm so proud of him. Him and the other 10 guys in that huddle rallied around that and said, ‘You know what, we're gonna be fine.' And we found a way to get it done."

By the time the first half came to a close, Cutler had completed 13-of-19 for 168 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, to go with a passer rating of 73.9. Cutler hit Marshall for a 5-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left before intermission to tie the score 10-10 at the half.

When Cutler struggled early, McCown never wondered if Trestman would turn back to him over the starter.

"I believed in him 100 percent," McCown said. "He's the starting quarterback for us because he can do those sorts of things. He can pull himself out of that. He's that mentally tough. So I knew it was just a matter of time. It's been a while since he played. He got to settle back in and was ready to roll."

As Cutler prepped in front of his locker to face the media for a postgame press conference, McCown stood in front of the starting quarterback, helping to adjust his tie.

McCown entered Sunday leading the NFL with a Total QBR of 85.7. He'd thrown 13 TDs and only one INT in five starts and portions of two other games. He completed 36 passes on Nov. 24 to set the franchise single-game pass completion record, and he passed for 300 yards or more in each of the last three games, in addition to holding the franchise's highest single-season passer rating.

But in this moment, McCown had been relegated back to a reserve role. He was fine it.

"[Cutler is] a mentally tough dude, I just kept encouraging him. We all have his back," McCown said. "It was just a matter of him getting a couple of plays going and some positive things happening. I knew he would be fine. I'm so proud of him. I'm probably more proud today than any game this year. What he did was so cool."

Rapid Reaction: Cleveland Browns

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
4:15
PM ET

CLEVELAND -- A few thoughts on the Cleveland Browns38-31 loss to the Chicago Bears:

What it means: The Browns' defense needs work. Players and coaches can point to numbers and stats and justify whatever they want, but against Chicago, the Browns gave up 21 fourth-quarter points. They started the fourth quarter with a lead, then gave up three touchdowns. On one, Alshon Jeffery made a circus catch; on another, a good punt return gave the Bears a short field. A good defense makes big stops when needed. The Browns' defense is not doing that.

Stock watch: Maybe Josh Gordon was simply due an off week. After four otherworldly games in a row, Gordon was average against Chicago. He missed a couple of passes that he had been catching. Jason Campbell missed him at times. And at others he was open, and Campbell didn’t look his way. Gordon’s stock should not drop, but the Browns clearly needed more from him than a late touchdown when the game was already decided.

Walk the walk: Browns free safety Tashaun Gipson had effusive praise for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler during the week leading up to the game, but he also said Cutler would give the Browns' defense a chance to make plays. Gipson proved he wasn’t kidding, with two first-half interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. The big blemish: Gipson misjudged a long pass and allowed Jeffery to make a circus catch in the fourth quarter to tie the game.

Safety awareness day: At one point it appeared the Browns' safeties were headed to a big game against the Bears and Cutler. Too bad games last four quarters. Gipson had the interception for a touchdown, and T.J. Ward returned a second-half fumble for a score. The two helped to produce 17 of the Browns' first 24 points, with Gipson’s first pick leading to a field goal. But in the second half, Gipson let Jeffery make the TD catch behind him, and Ward was nowhere to be found on the second-longest touchdown run of Michael Bush's career.

Haden injured: Browns cornerback Joe Haden left the game in the third quarter with a hip injury. It appeared Haden either hit the ground awkwardly trying to make a tackle on a Bears run, or he was kneed in the hip by Jermon Bushrod as Bushrod was blocking. Haden's leaving, combined with an earlier injury this season to Chris Owens, put rookie Leon McFadden on the field at corner with Buster Skrine.

What's next: The Browns travel to face the New York Jets on Sunday in the penultimate game of the season.

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
4:15
PM ET

CLEVELAND -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 38-31 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

What it means: Jay Cutler shook off a horrid beginning with three touchdown passes to go with a passer rating of 102.2 to keep the Bears in the mix in the NFC North title race. What’s more, there’s a chance the Detroit Lions could help out the Bears on Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens. If the Lions defeat the Ravens, they’ll remain ahead of the Bears by a half-game in the NFC North standings with just two contests left to play. But if Detroit falls, the Bears will lead the division, with a realistic shot at winning it.

Almost a statistical anomaly: Typically the Bears win games when they score defensive touchdowns. But the club nearly bucked that trend in Cleveland.

Coming into the game, the Bears had won 11 consecutive games when they scored a defensive touchdown. So when Zack Bowman helped the Bears score 14 points in just 1 minute, 41 seconds to turn a 10-3 halftime deficit into 17-10 lead with his 43-yard interception return at the 13:48 mark of the third quarter, it appeared the visitors were well on the way to yet another victory by way of a defensive score. After all, since 2005, the Bears had racked up a 25-2 record in games they scored a defensive TD. The record is now 26-2, but an offense that allowed the Browns to score two defensive touchdowns almost ruined that.

Score TDs, don’t give them up: Chicago’s offense is supposed to score touchdowns, not surrender them. But the Bears nearly negated a decent performance by the struggling defense when they granted Cleveland’s defense a couple of freebie touchdowns. Cutler started the giveaway party in the second quarter by throwing an interception that was returned 44 yards for a touchdown by Tashaun Gipson that put the Browns up 10-3.

Then, in the third quarter, Martellus Bennett caught a 5-yard pass from Cutler, only to cough it up on a hit from Billy Winn. T.J. Ward scooped up that loose ball and returned it 51 yards for a score to help Cleveland end the third quarter with a 24-17 lead.

Blown opportunity: Bowman intercepted Jason Campbell in the second quarter to give Chicago possession at its own 40, and although the Bears moved quickly into Browns territory, they blew an opportunity to score. On fourth-and-1 at the Cleveland 24, receiver Alshon Jeffery was flagged for false start as the Bears attempted to convert for a first down. That penalty moved back the Bears and forced Robbie Gould to kick a 46-yard field goal. Gould connected on the kick, but Corey Wootton was called for holding.

That quick sequence of plays forced the Bears to punt when they were in prime position to put points on the board.

What’s next: The Bears face Philadelphia, which fell at Minnesota, on the road Sunday in a game flexed to a prime-time kickoff. Given where the Bears and the Eagles sit in their respective divisions and the fact that only two games remain, this contest is shaping up as a crucial one for both clubs.

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