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Browns vs. Chicago Bears

Sunday 1 p.m. in Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.

Record: 3-3.


Last game: Lost to Bengals, 45-10, Oct. 25, in Cincinnati.


Coach: Lovie Smith, 50-40, sixth year.


Series record: Browns lead, 9-4.


Last meeting: Browns won, 20-10, Oct. 9, 2005, in Cleveland.


League rankings: Offense is 21st (29th rush, 16th pass), defense is 16th (18th rush, 16th pass) and turnover differential is minus-5.


Offensive overview: Some believe strong-armed Jay Cutler needs a more vertical offense than the precision, West Coast-style favored by coordinator Ron Turner. They point to the top-end speed of wideouts Devin Hester and rookie Johnny Knox. Turner has tried to alter his routes to take advantage of the firepower. The Bears have 20 pass plays of 20 yards or more. But Cutler has a lot of Brett Favre in him and often makes throws that cause Turner indigestion. He's a turnover machine in the red zone. Second-year back Matt Forte has not built off his good rookie year. He's on pace for fewer than 1,000 yards and is averaging a mere 3.5 yards a rush. Another underachieving player is tight end Greg Olsen (19 catches, 175 yards, but three TD). It all stems from a revamped offensive line that hasn't meshed. There are three new starters and newcomer left tackle Orlando Pace isn't what he used to be in his heyday in St. Louis.


Defensive overview: Lovie Smith's Tampa-2 defense depends on the front four generating the pass rush. When it doesn't, it doesn't have a chance of working. Tackle Tommie Harris hasn't done much all year because of a lingering knee injury and was benched against Cincinnati. Injuries knocked out two starting linebackers for the year -- Brian Urlacher (wrist) and Pisa Tinoisamoa. Smith has used six different players as starting linebackers and has had five different combinations in six games. The lack of pressure up front has caused Smith to blitz more, and that is against his nature. The results have been some big plays for opponents. The big question mark heading into the season was supposed to be at cornerback, but starters Charles Tillman -- who had two surgeries in the off-season and didn't play in preseason until the last game against the Browns -- and Zackary Bowman have held up well.


Special teams overview: Under coordinator Dave Toub, a disciple of John Harbaugh when at Philadelphia, the Bears have consistently ranked in the top 10 of special teams. The coverage units in particular have taken a hit because of the linebacker injuries. But the return tandem of Devin Hester (12.9 average on punts) and Johnny Knox (29.0 on kickoffs and one TD) are outstanding. Kicker Robbie Gould is 7-of-8 on field goals with a long of 52 yards and has three touchbacks. Punter Brad Maynard is 24th in gross average (42.3 average) and 15th in net (38.6).





Quarterback Jay Cutler: He has an arm comparable to John Elway. Just ask him. But his 10 interceptions have held back the offense. He has the confidence to throw to any spot, no matter how small the window.


Receiver/returner Devin Hester: Developing him into the team's No. 1 receiver reduced his return duties exclusively to punts. He still has his sights set on Brian Mitchell's NFL record of 13 touchdown returns. Hester has 11.


Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye: A tongue-twister for announcers, but he speaks fluently as a sack artist. He leads the team with 4 1/2 sacks and two fumble recoveries.


Injury report: RB Adrian Peterson (knee) is out. DT Tommie Harris (knee) missed the Cincinnati game and probably will be limited this week.


Small world: Coach Lovie Smith coached defensive backs at Ohio State (1995). ... Running backs coach Tim Spencer, of Martins Ferry, Ohio, played at Ohio State (1979-82) and coached backs there (1994-03). ... Defensive backs coach Jon Hoke coached at Kent State (1989-93). ... Offensive tackle Orlando Pace is a native of Sandusky and played at Ohio State. ... Assistant offensive line coach Charles London worked for the Browns (1999-01). ... Offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer played for the Browns (2006-08). ... Defensive end Israel Idonijie was a Browns undrafted free agent (2003).


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Tony Grossi's Scouting Report: Chicago Bears remain a talented, if inconsistent, opponent

By Tony Grossi SOURCE

October 27, 2009, 6:27PM


• Browns at Chicago Bears, Sunday, 1 p.m., WOIO Ch. 19


CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Chicago Bears fans thought all their team needed was a blue-chip quarterback to return to the Super Bowl this year.


So the team traded three high draft picks and Kyle Orton for Jay Cutler. Now Orton is outplaying Cutler and leading the Denver Broncos to a 6-0 record.


The Bears gave up on troublesome running back Cedric Benson a while back. His teammates reportedly despised him. Now Benson is leading the NFL in rushing after a 189-yard game against the Bears. His replacement, Matt Forte, is struggling to find the form that made him a rookie sensation.


These developments might not be the reasons the Bears are 3-3 and looking up at Minnesota and Green Bay in their NFC North division. But they are reminders that the best-laid plans often go awry.


Three years ago, coach Lovie Smith became the toast of Chicago for guiding the Bears to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman at quarterback. The almost weekly focus on the hot-and-cold Grossman obscured how good the Bears were at running the ball, playing defense and playing special teams.


Now Smith is catching some flak, and offensive coordinator Ron Turner is under fire.


Smith has had the same offensive staff since 2005. At the same time, he has tinkered almost every year with the defensive staff. This year he named three new position coaches on defense and appointed himself the defensive play-caller.


It's conceivable the Bears can make a run at the division title. They still have two games against the Vikings -- and may catch Brett Favre in both meetings with a sore arm -- and a home game against Green Bay.


But their inexplicable 45-10 loss in Cincinnati was a cold slap in the face.


The fact the Bears are a whopping 13 1/2-point favorite in Sunday's home game against the Browns says more about the Browns than the Bears.


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Tony Grossi's four things about Browns v. Bears

By Tony Grossi

November 01, 2009, 7:15AM


1. Cribbs and Hester Don't miss the opening kickoff. Don't miss the second half kickoff. Don't miss the punts. Josh Cribbs and Devin Hester can take this game into their own hands and run away with it in the return game. Cribbs has the advantage of returning both punts and kickoffs. Hester is just on punts now. Come to think of it, unless the Browns' offense does an about-face and starts moving the chains, Hester may have seven or eight chances to return punts.



2. Z's the man To help contain Hester, the Browns will need another outstanding game from Dave Zastudil. Landing punts inside the 20 now is generally considered the truest measure of a punter's value. Zastudil has landed 25 of his 43 punts inside the 20. The next-closest has 19. Zastudil is on pace for 57 punts inside the 20. The NFL record is 42. The fan portion of Pro Bowl balloting is now underway on nfl.com. Vote for Zastudil.



3. Anderson and Cutler Yes, Derek Anderson has been through some rough games of late and his passing numbers are microscopic compared to the league leaders. But think back to 2007, his Pro Bowl year. Anderson: big arm, could throw the ball through a wall, aggressive, took chances, was either really good or really bad. That's Jay Cutler, isn't it? It's not a surprise that when Anderson was asked about Cutler this week, he replied, "I like the way he plays."



4. Who will step up? The Browns' receivers have been in a funk since Braylon Edwards was traded on Oct. 27. In the three games without Edwards, here are the numbers posted by the wideouts: Mohammed Massaquoi, 7 catches for 121 yards; Brian Robiskie, 1 for 23; Mike Furrey, 1 for 5; Chansi Stuckey, 0 for 0. That's nine catches for 151 yards among four receivers over three games. C'mon, people. See it, catch it, tuck it.



-- Tony Grossi



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