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Keys to the Game

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Keys to the Game: How the Browns can beat the Bears in Week 15

Browns have best home record in the AFC as they wrap up two-game home stand 

Keys Week 15

The Browns currently have the best home record in the AFC, as they are 6-1 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. They'll look to build on that record as they host the Bears on Sunday for their Week 15 matchup on the lake.

So, let's look at three keys to Sunday's game for the Browns.

Handle dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields

The Browns have seen dual-threat quarterbacks this season and will face another on Sunday in QB Justin Fields. Not only does he have a strong throwing arm, but Fields also has a level of mobility and can find players down the field. He also knows how to extend plays and use his legs.

Through his nine games this season, Fields has completed 162 of 255 passes for 1,810 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Fields has also rushed for 458 yards on 89 carries and two rushing touchdowns.

DC Jim Schwartz said the Browns have different schemes they can use against scrambling quarterbacks that they can turn to for Sunday's matchup.

"It's not just about getting them covered through the timing of the pass, it's getting them covered on extended plays," Schwartz said. "He's near the top of the league as far as time to throw. And it's not necessarily protection. It's time to throw, it's him buying time with his legs. So, it puts a little bit more on our coverage and then different ways to rush to pass or maybe with extra guys, maybe with second level guys, different pressure packages."

Find success in the passing game

The Browns have an opportunity on Sunday to not only use the strength of veteran QB Joe Flacco's arm, but also exploit the Bears' pass defense.

In his first two games, Flacco has completed 49 of 89 passes for 565 yards and five touchdowns. He has a completion percentage of 55.1 percent. He's connected with at least eight different pass catchers in both games, spreading the ball around and finding players open to make plays.

"He has an element to his game, obviously with being playing football for so long that I think he sees the bigger picture a little bit slower just because of the experience," WR Elijah Moore said. "I feel like he allows every single receiver to always have the mindset of every single route, everybody be ready. I feel like that only brings us closer as offense and especially as a receiver on quarterback tandem."

The Bears have struggled to defend the passing game this season, as they have given up 3,001 passing yards — ranked 23rd in the league — and 24 passing touchdowns — which is ranked 30th in the league.

Yet, OC Alex Van Pelt said that over their last four games, the Bears pass defense has improved, and can present challenges for the Browns. The Bears pass rush also has DE Montez Sweat, who Van Pelt described as a skilled pass rusher and a physical power rusher who is good against the run.

Combat an improved Bears defensive line and DL Montez Sweat

The Bears defense has seen an uptick since they traded for DL Montez Sweat at the end of October, especially in their pass rush. Van Pelt described Sweat as a skilled pass rusher and a physical power rusher who is good against the run. Stefanski sees similar traits in how Sweat can pressure the quarterback and also sack quarterbacks.

"Big, long, athletic, physical, great effort," Stefanski said. "He's pressuring the quarterback. He's getting sacks. You notice him right away just how big he is, but he plays really hard. I got a ton of respect for him."

In five games with the Bears, Sweat has a total of 12 tackles – including two tackles for loss – and 3.5 sacks, as well as two passes defended and 10 quarterback hurries.

Yet, in addition to Sweat, their overall defensive line has improved. As of Week 9, the Bears rank fifth in total defense. LG Joel Bitonio said that the Bears defensive front is a movement front.

"So, even if they're playing base defense, their guys are going to shift and go into different gaps," Bitonio said. "So, there's a lot and they come from that tree of play hard, relentless pursuit. So, it's a big challenge for us."

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