Browns-Bears: Greg's Game Preview

Is the match-up between Harris and Steinbach the key to victory?

Do you remember when the Bears rose from the dead to defeat the Butch Davis led Browns?  Do you remember Antonio Bryant making his famous full moon catch to defeat the Bears? The Browns and Bears have produced some instant classics and this one might surprise the world and fall into line with the previous two.  

Browns Offense vs. Bears Defense

Week after week, I have berated the play calling of Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.  Week after week, I am proven correct because the play calling borders on insanity.  Second and one and the Browns run a quarterback sneak.  Third and short the Browns run a sweep with Lewis.  

It is criminal in the way the Browns have used center Hank Fraley this season.  The rookie Alex Mack was not ready to take over for Hank, yet Hank was benched for the rookie.  When Floyd Womack went down with an injury, this offensive line came alive because Fraley was able to replace Womack and help the rook with his calls.  It was cute to have Hank at tight end but it was not football smart.  

For the Browns to have success against this Bears front seven they will need to play smart up front and use the quickness of the line to trap their way to success.  The Bears love to get their line going one way and the backers going the other, creating a bit of confusion.  They shoot the gaps and force the running back to hesitate.  The Browns will need to use speed at the running back position and attack those gaps the way Cedric Benson of the Bengals was able to one week ago.

Jamal Lewis is at the end of his career and Jerome Harrison is nine games away from free agency.  The Browns have to give the young man a chance to show what he has.  Harrison's skill set is made for this type of match up.  

When the Bears lost Brian Urlacher for the season, they lost their intimidator in the middle. Urlacher had lost a step or two but he was still the driving force.  Now Hunter Hillenmyer takes on that role.  Hunter is improving, but he just does not impact the position but rather fills it.  As a whole this linebacker corps of the Bears is not playing "Chicago Bears football".  

With Tommie Harris healthy and in the lineup this is a violent defensive front four.  Harris will line-up with Browns guard Eric Steinbach and this will be power and explosion versus quickness and technique.  This match could decide the outcome of this one.

Another key match up is former Bear John St. Clair facing off against Adewale Ogunleye.  John has struggled mightily for the Browns and facing Ogun will be a difficult challenge.  The secret is out when it comes to St. Claire...  by using the dip and rip and you can beat him to the outside.  This is where you can play call to help your right tackle.  Design runs to the right side, between the guard and tackle, will keep Ogun off balance and it will slow his pass rush.  

There has been many calling for the Browns to replace quarterback Derek Anderson and return Brady Quinn to the lineup.  I do not believe playing Brady Quinn helps the Browns in any way.  This season is a disaster; the offensive line is playing poor and the play calling borders on insanity.  Quinn may yet have a future with the Browns and it is best to avoid a repeat of Tim Couch and David Carr.

Last week, Anderson was off to a terrific start - completing six straight passes at one point.  His game deteriorated steadily as the game progressed.  There is a bit of a Madden mentality with this offense.  They start out with the short to mid-range game plan, but as they get behind, they try to catch up in one throw.  Anderson is guilty of taking the double coverage throw deep and missing on the mid-range single coverage options.  This is the throw that made Anderson a pro bowl quarterback and it is the throw that the Bears do not defend well.  Derek can turn his season around by making the smart play and avoiding the greedy play.

The Browns may have found a brand new weapon in tight end Michael Gaines.  I was very impressed with the big tight end.  He blocked well and showed something rarely seen from a Browns player, at least this season, and that is great hands.  He could find a permanent role on this roster if he continues his progression with expanded knowledge of the playbook.

Mohamed Massaquoi has the skill set to become a star in this league.  He runs good routes.  He has size and speed and he is a very physical receiver.  He also has a very bad habit that is certain to shorten his career - he is a body catcher.  Until he becomes confident in using his hands to catch the ball, he cannot be trusted, but, for now at least, he is the Browns' best option at receiver.

Browns Defense vs. Bears Offense

The Browns defense is struggling, but so is the Bears offense.  Quarterback Jay Cutler can shred a defense when he has time and running back Matt Forte can destroy a defense if he has a hole to hit.  The problem for them both is the offensive line.  

Jay is a rhythm passer.  He wants to get the ball, drop back, find his target, step up and deliver the ball.  When pressure comes from the interior, it gets Jay out of rhythm and he is making throws off his back foot.  Those passes are being picked.

Matt Forte is a terrific young running back with great balance and a workhorse mentality that fits the Chicago Bear culture.  Matt is a straight-ahead type of back with all the intangibles.  Matt is a downhill runner and he has to get moving to be effective.  Right now, he is avoiding the first tackler as soon as he touches the football.  It is impossible for the young back to get going when the defense is gaining that kind of penetration.  

The interior of the line for the Bears is the culprit.  I do not see a great deal of communication going on between the center and the guards.  They are allowing defenders to come through completely untouched. If they allow Shaun Rogers to come through clean the way they did against the Bengals, the Bears will be looking for a new quarterback.  

The number one receiving weapon for the Bears is tight end Greg Olsen.  Olsen is the safety outlet with his huge frame and great hands.  The Browns just happen to struggle defending the tight end position.  Olsen should be in for a great game as the Browns linebackers are showing a tendency to get lost in coverage and the Browns defensive backs do not seem able to make a simple tackle.  

This may be the fastest group of receivers the Browns will face all year.  Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett are fast run-after-the-catch types.  The Browns defensive backs must play tight and disrupt the routes allowing the front seven to get to the quarterback.  

Special Teams

This is the match up we all want to see: Joshua Cribbs going head-to-head with Johnny Knox and Devin Hester in the return game.  I expect a close contest and the difference could be special teams.  Both teams pride themselves on special teams play and this should be a very exciting contest to watch.


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