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Browns-Bears: Five keys

Posted Dec 13, 2013

Browns Senior Editor Vic Carucci breaks down the five keys for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium.

>>Capitalize on Jay Cutler’s risk-taking tendencies. There was no argument against sticking with Josh McCown as the Bears’ starting quarterback. After all, he was playing exceptionally well, setting up an obvious if-isn’t-broke-don’t-fix-it foundation for not making a change. But Cutler was the Bears’ starter before suffering an ankle injury that sidelined him the past four games. He has a much better arm than McCown. He also is much more of a risk-taker, constantly seeking to make the big throw even if it means squeezing the ball through tight coverage. The Browns must take advantage of that. Joe Haden and the rest of their defensive backs need to pounce on opportunities to make interceptions, because they will have them.

>>Run it! Run it! And run it some more! Thanks largely to a banged-up defense, the Bears rank dead-last in the NFL against the run. They routinely give up 100-yard rushing games. The Browns are near the bottom in the league in rushing offense, so this doesn’t necessarily mean they can expect to have a big day on the ground. But they need to make every effort to do so. They will never have a better chance to find success running the ball this season, and they must be persistent about trying to establish something effective along those lines. The offensive line and the backs need to accept this as a challenge that they can make the running game work, once and for all. There will never be a better chance to do so.

>> Hold up in coverage against Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. This is probably impossible, but it must happen if the Browns have a prayer of winning. Marshall and Jeffery make up the best receiving duo in the NFL, and there is no close second. They are big, fast, athletic, and capable of making acrobatic catches, especially near or beyond the goal line. The problem is that no opponent has enough depth in the secondary to match up with them. Haden might be able to contain one of them, but expecting Buster Skrine and/or Leon McFadden to keep the other in check is likely expecting too much.

>>Don’t allow Matt Forte to take over the game. For all of the fireworks the Bears produce from the NFL’s fifth-ranked passing attack, they also can do an effective job with running the ball. That’s because they have Forte, one of the league’s more talented backs. Forte is capable of ripping off long gains and is every bit as dangerous as a receiver out of the backfield. The Browns will be challenged to avoid being burned in coverage mismatches that the Bears are consistently able to create with Forte in the passing game. The additional dilemma the Browns have is that they also need to be able to account for Martellus Bennett, the Bears’ highly talented tight end, with the same people (safeties and linebackers) who will alternately be responsible for keeping an eye on Forte.

>>Make amends on special teams. The Browns have had a rough season in this department. Losing Travis Benjamin for the year was a blow from which they have never recovered in the return game. And that has been compounded by problems in punt protection and, as was the case against the Patriots last week, the inability to recover an onside kick, which would have sealed a Browns victory. There is reason to believe that the Browns will again be in a tight, high-scoring game that will likely be decided by a special-teams play or two. The Browns’ kicking units are determined to make up for what happened last Sunday in a big way.

>>Carucci’s Call is presented by Revol Wireless. Come Save With Us.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.