3 keys for Bears to upset Browns and final score prediction originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
After a rough Week 1, the Bears bounced back against the Bengals in their home opener to lock up their first win of the season. The defense took the ball away, prevented the Bengals’ host of playmakers from running up the score, and the offensive line did a good job limiting Cincinnati’s impactful defensive line. But there are still things the team can improve upon, and will need to improve upon, if they want to get an upset victory, on the road, against the Browns.
CONVERT RED ZONE TRIPS INTO TOUCHDOWNS
When your defense creates four takeaways, you probably want to win the game by more than three points. The Bengals were able to crawl back into the game late in the fourth quarter, largely because they only scored 13 points off of the four takeaways. Seven of those points came on Roquan Smith’s pick-six, and one of the field goals came when the Bears got the ball on the Bengal’s nine-yard line. The Browns are tied for fourth in the league, with eight touchdowns in two games, so the Bears will have to punch the ball into the endzone themselves to keep up.
“To not score touchdowns when we got in those spots was the most disappointing. So we dealt with that when we reviewed the tape with the offense, and coach literally talked about, here’s what the drives looked like and here were the issues, whether it be penalties, whether it be poor execution.” - Bill Lazor
CONTINUE TO STIFLE THE RUN
Through two weeks, the Bears rank fifth-best in the league by limiting opposing running backs to only 3.3 YPC. They’ve done it against legit rushing threats too: the Rams’ outside zone run scheme, and the dynamic Joe Mixon. They could have their toughest challenge ahead however, when they take on the two-headed monster of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Even with Odell Beckham Jr. returning from his ACL injury, the Browns’ bread and butter is running the offense through their talented backs. If the Bears can shut down Chubb and Hunt, it will go a long way towards keeping points off the board.
“They are physical, and they run angrily and mean. They run with their shoulders over their toes. They’re not afraid to hit the ball downhill and they are not afraid to make anybody miss – from a defensive linemen to a defensive back, they can make anybody miss in the hole. It’s going to take a lot of people at one time to get them down.” - Sean Desai
GET JUSTIN FIELDS COMFORTABLE
Fields, and seemingly everyone inside Halas Hall, is supremely confident in his ability to lead the offense. He not only has the sheer talent and the incredible work to play at a high level, he also appears cool, calm and collected. The moment is clearly not too big for him. All that said, there are still ways in which the Bears can put him in the best position to succeed out the gate. Offensively, that doesn’t mean shrinking the play book, it means honing the play book. They already have a sense of what he likes to do, and which concepts have clicked with him, so they’ll obviously install plays to reflect that. But the Browns will also throw defenses at him that he’s never seen, and will disguise coverages and blitzes. That could lead to some struggles and rookie mistakes. What the Bears need to do is teach on the sidelines and adjust on the fly to limit those tough moments. There’s an understandable desire to set Fields loose right away, and open up the entire offense to see what he can do. But Nagy cautioned that could lead to “paralysis by analysis” if it’s too much, too soon. What the Bears need Fields to do is play fast and instinctively. To do that they may have to ease him into the offense a little bit.
“Just trust your instincts. Play the way you’ve played your entire career… there’s gonna be times here moving forward when there’s gonna be good, there’s gonna be bad. Just cut it loose. His strength is just that — he’s very resilient. Have fun too. His teammates一 go out there and trust your teammates. Don’t try to be out there and be a hero. Just go out there and play. Play football. Be a great quarterback for this game and see where it takes you the rest of the year.” -Matt Nagy on advice for Fields
The Browns are one of the best teams in the AFC, and for the Bears to win on the road, with a rookie making his first start, everything will have to go right. In the NFL, that doesn’t happen very often. Bears keep it a one-score game, but don’t get the “W.”
Browns: 24, Bears: 20
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