With identical 7-6 records, the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions are tied atop the NFC North Division, and that is one of the many reasons Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski knows his team will face a challenge when hosting the Bears Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Bears roll into Cleveland on a short week after earning a 45-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field in front of a near capacity crowd on Monday Night Football.
“They’re a very good team coming off an impressive win against Dallas on Monday night,” Chudzinski said. “Offensively, they’re top 10 in most categories, and are really playing well.”
According to Chudzinski, Chicago’s offense goes as does running back Matt Forte.
This season, Forte has rushed for 1,073 yards and seven touchdowns on 234 attempts. He has averaged 4.6 yards per carry, and proven to be a dual threat in the passing game. Out of the backfield, Forte has been on the receiving end of 65 passes, third-most on the team, and turned those receptions into 518 yards and two scores.
In his career, Forte ranks second in Bears history for rushing yards (6,400), receiving yards by a running back (2,843), yards from scrimmage (9,243), yards from scrimmage per game (105.0) and games with 150 or more scrimmage yards (16).
Since 2008, Forte has the third-most rushing yards in the NFL.
“The guy who really is a key to their offense is Matt Forte,” Chudzinski said. “(He’s) a complete player, a complete back. He can run. He can catch and runs great routes, and he blocks for them as well when he needs to do that.”
Despite injuries at the quarterback position forcing backup Josh McCown into the starting lineup for the past month, Chicago’s quarterbacks have a quartet of weapons to distribute the ball to.
Chicago wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall have both surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Marshall leads the team with 84 catches, which he has turned into 1,090 yards and nine touchdowns, while Jeffery has gained 1,193 yards and scored six touchdowns on 75 receptions.
When Marshall and Jeffrey have covered, Earl Bennett has registered 26 catches for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Martellus Bennett has turned 53 receptions into 588 yards and five touchdowns.
“They have great weapons on offense,” Chudzinski said. “As you look at their skill players, Brandon Marshall and (Alshon) Jeffery are big receivers, strong guys, the guys that can make things happen. They’re real dynamic guys with the ball in their hands after the catch. Earl Bennett’s a solid No. 3 receiver, comes in and does a good job making plays. Martellus Bennett is a big tight end, a very good combination player as a blocker and as a receiver.
“I think it will be a good challenge for Buster (Skrine), for Joe (Haden), for all of our guys. You look at them, position-by-position, and they’re a tough team to match up with. The size of those guys, even when you have good coverage on them, (they’re) still able to make plays in those situations. It’ll be a good challenge for those guys, as well for the other guys that are covering Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte and the rest of their offense.”
Chudzinski was quick to credit the success of the Bears to the offensive line, who has allowed 22 sacks for 117 lost yards in 13 games this season.
“Their offensive line has played very well, giving up, I think, the third-fewest sacks in the league,” Chudzinski said. “They’ve run the ball and been balanced in what they’re doing, and their offensive line is a big reason for that.
“The young guy, Kyle Long, was one of the top guys coming out and plays real well. (Roberto) Garza has been playing well for years inside at center, and (Jermon) Bushrod, I thought, had a great game this past Monday against Dallas in protections.”
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In last Sunday’s 27-26 loss at the New England Patriots, Browns quarterback
“This last game, I think that he played very well,” Chudzinski said. “His decision-making, leadership on the field, running when he needed to run, making first downs and making plays was impressive. Hopefully, he can continue that. His experience and maturity have really helped in that regard.”
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Browns offensive lineman
“I was impressed with him stepping in,” Chudzinski said. “He actually played right and left, and didn’t miss a beat when he jumped from one place to the other. He was very competitive in the game. That’s what I noticed. There’s always some technical things guys can do better, work on and focus on, but that part of it, I was impressed with.”
Prior to Wednesday’s practice, Chudzinski gave updates on Greco, quarterback
“Greco will not practice today and we’ll see where he’s at as we go on with the week and his status for the game,” Chudzinski said. “McGahee will not practice today. He’s in the concussion protocol. Weeden is cleared to practice only. He still has some steps and hurdles to get through the concussion protocol.
“I saw Willis this morning. We sent him home this morning, so we’ll see, as the week goes on, what his status is. He says he’s feeling better, so we’ll just go from there.”