Grading Bears' offense, defense in preseason win vs. Browns originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
CLEVELAND – The next one counts.
The Bears finished their preseason schedule Saturday night with a 21-20 win over the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The score doesn’t do the Bears’ performance justice.
The starters that head coach Matt Eberflus elected to play saw significant first-half action as the Bears raced out to a 21-6 lead. A late fourth-quarter rally by the Browns’ B and C team saw Cleveland inch within one, but the Bears’ defense was able to bow up on the two-point conversion to seal the win.
Quarterback Justin Fields was dealing Saturday night on the shores of Lake Erie, and the Bears’ defense had its way with a Browns’ offense lacking several playmakers.
Here are our grades for the Bears’ 21-20 preseason finale win over the Browns:
Eberflus planned to give Fields and the first-team offense significant time Saturday night, hoping the unit could showcase their progress throughout camp and turn it into production on the scoreboard.
After a rocky opening possession that was derailed by blocking issues in the run and pass game, Fields diced up the Browns.
The second-year quarterback went 14-of-16 for 156 yards and three touchdowns, while leading scoring drives of 80, 52, and 62 yards.
Fields opened the scoring by ripping a dart to tight end Ryan Griffin for a 22-yard score. On the following possession, he dropped a dime to Dante Pettis for a 12-yard score on a silky post-corner route. Fields finished his day by finding a wide-open Cole Kmet for a 24-yard touchdown to put the Bears up 21-0.
The Bears’ starting offense had been shaky in minimal snaps in the first two preseason games, but Fields and Co. finished the exhibition season on a high note Saturday in Cleveland.
Fields and the air attack will understandably get the headlines for their play at FirstEnergy Stadium. But the Bears’ ground game should get its plaudits as well.
David Montgomery made his preseason debut and flashed how his powerful, one-cut-and-go running style can thrive in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s wide-zone attack. Montgomery rushed nine times for 28 yards, but the physicality with which he ran set the tone for the Bears’ offense.
Khalil Herbert rushed four times for 14 yards and Darrynton Evans added 18 yards on four totes. De'Montre Tuggle's late fumble was the lone blemish for the ground attack.
There were no big plays on the ground, but the Bears’ running game was able to do enough to allow the passing attack to function.
The offensive line bounced back after a bad opening series to pave the way for Montgomery over the next four drives.
There are things to clean up, but the potential for the Bears’ ground attack to become lethal.
Work to be done, though.
Five of the Bears’ most important defensive players didn’t suit Saturday for the finale.
Robert Quinn got the night off as a veteran, while Jaylon Johnson and Roquan Smith both were held out due to tightness. Safety Eddie Jackson also missed the game and is day-to-day. His partner, rookie Jaquan Brisker, remains out with a hand injury.
Despite those absences, the Bears’ defense played well against a Brown team that didn’t have Deshaun Watson, Nick Chubb, Amari Cooper, or Kareem Hunt.
The Bears held Jacoby Brissett to 13-of-23 for 109 yards and a second-quarter interception by Greg Stroman. Josh Dobbs got the Browns in the end zone with a touchdown pass to tight end Miller Forristall, but that was the only “fireworks” a toothless Browns’ offense could muster Saturday.
The amount of talent on the sidelines for the Bears’ defense and Browns’ offense has to be considered. But all in all, Alan Williams’ unit did its job in Cleveland
Without Chubb or Hunt to contend with, the Bears’ run defense capped off its preseason with a sterling performance.
Justin Jones set the tone early when he burst through the line and cracked D’Ernest Johnson for a 1-yard loss on the second play of the game.
The Bears held the Browns to 78 yards on 28 carries (2.8 yards per tote).
Outside of the very first drive of the preseason when Patrick Mahomes diced them up, the Bears’ defense has been a disciplined and fundamentally sound unit that flies to the ball.
Adding Smith to that equation should give them even more juice when the games count.
You can hang this performance on the fridge.
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