NFL Nation: Julian Posey

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.

Trestman wanted his quarterback, Jay Cutler, and his receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery working with the wind in the final quarter.

File that little thought.

With 3:59 left in the third quarter came factor two: The Browns lost cornerback Joe Haden to a hip pointer when he was kneed inadvertently by Bears lineman Jermon Bushrod.

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.
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns' defense talks a good game.

The Browns can recite numbers with the best of them to show where they are ranked league-wide, and what they need to do to be ranked high if they’re not.

But there is also is this fact: For the third week in a row, the Browns had a fourth-quarter lead and the defense squandered it.

Sunday the Chicago Bears scored 21 points in the final 15 minutes en route to a 38-31 win.

[+] EnlargeAlshon Jeffery
AP Photo/Mark DuncanThe Cleveland Browns had trouble stopping Alshon Jeffery and the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter.
Which would project to 84 points a game, which is pretty good.

Early, the Browns were buoyed by two defensive touchdowns -- an interception and a fumble return -- that had the defense off to a great start. But late, the defense did not come through when it mattered most. It collapsed, buried under the weight of its mistakes and the Bears' athletic plays.

That makes three games in a row the defense did not stop the other team when it mattered most.

Jacksonville (!) drove 80 yards in the final minute for a game-winning touchdown.

New England had officiating help on its last drive, but the 82-yarder that made that last drive meaningful was against the Browns' defense.

And Chicago saw Jay Cutler salivate at the loss of cornerback Joe Haden to a hip pointer, then lead the Bears to three scores in the final 10:59.

The first was an athletic catch by Alshon Jeffery behind Tashaun Gipson, with the help of the wind. That play was set up by an interference call on Leon McFadden and a holding call on Buster Skrine, the two corners playing with Haden out. (Julian Posey wound up covering Jeffery on the touchdown.)

On Chicago’s next two possessions, the Bears ran the ball down the vaunted Browns' throats.

Twenty-two of 36 yards came on the ground on the next TD drive, then 74 of 78 on the drive that sealed it.

The Browns played a team that had to go on the road after playing Monday night, a team that had a quarterback starting his first game in a month. The defense gave up 179 yards rushing, 127 to Matt Forte, and 265 and three touchdowns passing.

The fourth quarter was the worst.

While the Browns have been giving up 12, 16 and 21 points in the fourth quarter the past three games, they’ve scored 21 -- seven against the Bears on a late TD when the Browns were already down 14. In fourth quarters all season, the Browns have been outscored 128-66, or just less than 2 to 1.

The last four games the opposition finished with 27, 32, 27 and 38 points, an average of 31 per game. Yes but, some might say. As in, but the offense turned it over, or the defense was tired, or the moon was in the seventh house. Last time anyone checked, the defense was on the field when many of the points were scored.

In 11 of 14 games this season, the other team scored 23 points or more -- 23.5 was the league average heading into the game. In five of them it was 31 or more. Opponents are averaging 26 points per game on a defense that touts itself as quite a bit more special than it is.

Sure, the Bears scored on an interception return, which means they scored 31 on offense. Hoo hoo.

A top defense does not give up this kind of scoring.

A top defense does not finish games this way.

A top defense makes a stand when a stand is needed.

Until that happens, perhaps it’s time to put away the numbers and metrics. Just go out and win a stinking game.

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