ReFo: Bears @ Browns, Week 15
The big talk coming into this game was that Jay Cutler being reinserted into the starting lineup and sending backup Josh McCown to the bench after his red-hot streak of play that had helped right the Chicago ship. Given the result it’s hard to be too critical of the move, but Cutler was far from great in this game.
The Browns actually played pretty well except at the critical quarterback position, with Jason Campbell unable to hit open receivers and even turning provider for the Bears by supplying them with a pick-six, a score from which the Browns actually recovered and took the lead, only to lose it again in the final quarter as the Bears upped the ante.
Let’s take a closer look at who stood out.
Chicago: Three Performances of Note
Time to Give Up on McClellin?
The Bears just can’t seem to get production out of Shea McClellin at DE. Whether he is ill-suited to the scheme or not remains an open question, but for a pass-rusher if nothing else he should be able to generate pressure on the edge, and he isn’t. Against the run this season his grade now stands at an ugly -17.6 but his pass rush grade is also firmly in the red at -9.2, -3.0 of which came in this game against the Browns. He wasn’t blanked, but generated just two hurries from 49 snaps and never really looked like a factor in the game. Maybe all he needs is a new scheme, and the switch from 4-3 to 3-4 has transformed players countless times in the past, but if the Bears aren’t planning on a schematic switch that dramatic themselves it must surely be time to move on from him and start again. His low point in the game came when he was completely lost on an option play the Browns ran, blowing contain entirely and getting turned around inside as he looked for the football.
New Boy Jeremiah
This Jeremiah Ratliff guy looks pretty handy, I wonder if he has played somewhere before? Seriously folks, the artist formerly known as Jay Ratliff looked a lot like the guy who used to be so dominant for the Cowboys at times in this game. The thing he always brought to the table was quickness on the inside. Often interior linemen are too used to dealing with powerful but relatively sluggish interior players, but Ratliff always brought speed off the snap. That speed isn’t just with his initial step, but also with his first move, and he tossed aside multiple members of the Cleveland interior in this game, leaving them grasping at air as he made plays in the backfield. He notched a pair of hits as well as a hurry and also chimed in with two big stops in the run game. It has been a long road back for Ratliff after injuries derailed his career, but playing like this he could prove to be one of the bargain pickups of the season.
Marshall’s Eventful Day
It’s not often you’ll see a receiver earn a significantly positive grade with drops on his stat sheet, but Brandon Marshall bucked that trend in this game, earning a +3.9 grade thanks to some impressive plays as a blocker and receiver. Cutler was erratic throwing the ball early in the game, putting the ball in jeopardy several times when looking in Marshall’s direction including an interception, but he later hit him deep for a touchdown in which Marshall went up over traffic and high-pointed the football. He ended the day with 95 yards and a score from six receptions on the dozen targets he saw, but his blocking remains a separating factor. The Bears ran the same pitch play to Matt Forte several times in the game, motioning Alshon Jeffery away from the pitch before the snap and then using Marshall to seal inside the edge player on that side of the field and buy the run some room. Each time they did it there was a huge gap and each time it was largely due to Marshall’s block.
Cleveland: Three Performances of Note
Campbell’s Clunky Day
Sometimes you see Jason Campbell and think he could be a perfectly viable quarterback at this level – not exactly good, but good enough to win games the team should win. Other days you see the guy that turned up in this game, a scattershot quarterback who just couldn’t connect on anything more than 10 yards down field. On multiple occasions he had Josh Gordon open against some very loose Chicago zones only to miss him. Usually the misses weren’t by much, but those are the margins at this level between viable and bench-warmer. He only attempted 11 passes of 10 or more air-yards and just three were complete, including the late touchdown to claw the game back to within a score. Before that (somewhat desperation) play he had hit just two passes over 10+ yards, neither of which were over 20 in the air. Though he eventually tallied 273 yards passing, his passer rating of 67.6 is a far more accurate assessment of his performance, as is the -4.3 overall grade he got from us.
Well, not quite, but the duo of Mitchell Schwartz and Joe Thomas combined to allow just a single, solitary hurry on 82 combined pass blocks. That hurry was a marginal one as well, with Schwartz having a perfect day in pass protection, his first for the season. Thomas continues to underline his dominance as the single best pass-blocking tackle in football, controlling his side all game long, and making a few impressive blocks in the run game. Schwartz also had a good day in that regard, and the +4.8 grade he earned was just a hair below his season-high, and goes a long way toward righting the season that started so inconsistently. This performance is especially impressive because the Browns ask more of their tackles than most teams, routinely dropping the quarterback 9-10 yards deep in the pocket, putting both players on an island far more than the league average.
The WR Corps
Remember when Davone Bess was a sure-handed receiver? It’s been so long that I’m struggling to, but I know there was a time. He added to his tally of drops in this game while hauling in just one of the three passes sent his way. Josh Gordon also struggled in this game, dropping a pass and seeing a few more fly agonizingly past his reach on errant throws. He was thrown at ten times and came up with just three of them for 67 yards, 43 of which came on that late touchdown throw with the game all but decided. It was Greg Little who had arguably the best day among the receivers, catching four of the six passes thrown his way, though his route was a large part of the problem on Campbell’s pick-six play. Little ended up with 68 yards from his four receptions that featured some nice run after the catch play.
– Of 39 pass attempts, Jason Campbell threw the ball right of the numbers just three times, completing none of them.
– Josh Gordon’s average depth of target in this game was 18.9 yards down field.
– Chicago’s D righted the tackling ship, missing just two tackles in this game
PFF Game Ball
The result went against them, but their performances deserve this much – OT bookends Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz split the game ball.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam