Chicago Bears: Keys to victory Sunday against Browns

The Chicago Bears (7-6) travel to FirstEnergy Stadium to take on the Cleveland Browns (4-9) Sunday in Jay Cutler’s first game back since suffering a high ankle sprain earlier in the year.

Not only do the Browns tote some of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the NFL, they are more than willing to wreak havoc on a defense so the Bears have to be ready.

Stopping Gordon, Cameron should be high priority Sunday

Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings

Jennings effectively shut down Bryant last week against the Cowboys. Will he do the same against Gordon? (H. Rick Bamman (hbamman@shawmedia.com)

Browns’ wide receiver Josh Gordon is one of the best in the NFL, as he leads the league in total receiving yards on the year at 1,400. He also averages about 20 yards a reception, and is a nightmare for opposing secondaries. For the Bears, this does not bode well. Cornerback Charles Tillman is on IR, and his replacement Zack Bowman has only added to the defensive woes this season. However, the Bears are 10th against the pass, allowing an average of 224.5 yards in 2013. Cornerback Tim Jennings did limit Dez Bryant (12 yards and a touchdown) last week, so replicating that defensive performance is big if the Bears want to keep the momentum on their side.

The Bears have struggled against tight ends this season, with the exception of last week when they held Dallas Cowboys‘ tight end Jason Witten to just 10 yards and a touchdown. If the duo of Gordon and Cameron can combine for 272 yards and two touchdowns against a New England Patriots defense that is eighth against the pass, who knows what they will do against the Bears Sunday.

Among tight ends in Browns history, Cameron is second in touchdowns with seven, and, with 72 catches and 825 yards, trails just Jimmy Graham for first place in the NFL at the tight end position. They both open up for the field for each other, so the Bears have to stay with their assignments and not deviate from them. That is one thing with which Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene still struggle, as last week they overran their assignments on multiple occasions allowing Cowboys’ running back DeMarco Murray to torch them on his way to his second 100-yard rushing effort. Greene and Bostic, along with the rest of the secondary, must regroup and close down quickly on this duo if they want to give the Cutler and the offense a chance to stay in the game.

Pass rush still key to success down the road

Something else that will be just as important to give the Bears a chance at victory will be the pass rush. In last week’s game, defensive end Julius Peppers and the rest of the defensive line rushed Tony Romo and made the quarterback feel uncomfortable. Not only that, he was not able to get the ball to his favorite targets in Witten and Bryant. Getting to Browns’ quarterback Jason Campbell early and often and disrupting his attempts to get the ball to Gordon and Cameron is huge if the Bears want to come away victorious Sunday. Last week against the Pats, he threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, so the defense needs to stay alert and keep pressure on Campbell.

If they want to keep their playoff hopes intact, this is something the Bears must focus on week-to-week.

Cutler must prove worth to Bears Sunday

Lastly, this final stretch of regular-season games will prove to be the most pressure-filled of Cutler’s career. He needs to come out and prove why he deserves to be the quarterback for the Bears in the future, and he has to do it against a 3-4 defense that allows only 4.6 yards per play. He has defeated the 3-4 defense before against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but you never know what will happen when facing a team like the Browns with nothing to lose.