BEREA, Ohio — Historicially, the Chicago Bears have been known for their defense. The ‘Monsters of the Midway’ date back to the days of George Halas and carried over through the years of Dick Butkus and the Super Bowl Champion 1985 team with Mike Singletary under Mike Ditka and in more recent years with Brian Urlacher and crew.
However, under Marc Trestman, the Bears have become a more offensive-oriented ‘Monster’. Jay Cutler is slated to start this week after missing four games with a high ankle sprain. His replacement, Josh McCown has put up better numbers than Cutler in recent weeks, including being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance last week against the Cowboys, where he threw four touchdown passes and rushed for another. However, Trestman said he would go back to Cutler as soon as he was cleared to practice and he has remained true to his word.
“No disrespect to Josh McCown, but Jay Cutler is a different monster,” Tashaun Gipson said. “Anytime you’re dealing with one of the more elite quarterbacks in the game–Cutler is arguably a top-10 quarterback–I think that amplifies the situation.”
D’ Qwell Jackson said he feels the Bears have the best offense the Browns will face this season. The Bears currently are averaging 28.3 points per game, second in the NFL.
“This is probably the best offense we’ve faced this year,” Jackson said. “Getting Cutler back, he’s going to come in with a ton of confidence, and they’re playing at a high level.
“They always do some things schematic-wise to put you at a disadvantage, and the threat with Cutler is he can make every throw.,” he said. “He’s a confident guy, so we’ve definitely got to be on our game come Sunday.”
Last week against the Cowboys, the Bears were almost unstoppable.
“Last week, they didn’t even punt,” Rob Chudzinski said. “Hopefully, we’ll get them to punt (this week).”
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton knows he has his work cut out for him.
“For me, playing him the last couple of years, to me it’s his feet,” Horton said. “You know how strong his arm is, and he’s a smart quarterback and all that, but when you watch his feet, and the ability to throw off the wrong foot, to get the ball out quickly, I’ve been impressed. Because he’s smart, strong-armed, everybody knows that, but to me, it’s his ability to move in the pocket and to get the ball off, sometimes on the wrong foot.”
Cutler suffered a high ankle sprain on Nov. 10 and was 12th in the league with an 88.4 rating. He has thrown 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Cutler had the best game of his career at FirstEnergy Stadium when he threw for 447 yards in a 34-30 win over the Browns on Nov. 6, 2008 while playing for the Broncos. He threw three touchdown passes in the game, including the game-winner to current teammate Marshall with 1:17 to play for the win.
“He’s a great player,” Chudzinski said. “He’s a Pro Bowler. He’s had a lot of success in the league. He functions and plays extremely well in their system.”
Horton knows the Bears have a lot of weapons for Cutler in Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett.
“This team, Chicago, is a lot like Detroit in that they have weapons at every position,” Horton said. “Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery have the most catches in the league. I think they have the most combined yards in the league. They’re both, in our mind, No. 1 receivers. Then you put in a Matt Forte coming out of the backfield, the quarterbacks are playing hot, so they present a challenge that you can’t double everybody.
“You can’t roll up (coverage) to one guy, because then the other guy’s open,” Horton said. “What we plan to do is kind of what we’ve done. Roll things through. Mix them up. Jam them at the line. Get off the ball. Blitz them. Play some soft zones and make the quarterback, again, try to beat you. Because the wide receivers, the back and the tight end are all pretty good.”
If the receivers aren’t enough of a challenge, Forte is a multi-dimensional back.
“They’re different-type backs in that Matt Forte is probably the premier screen-catcher in the game, meaning behind the line of scrimmage, and probably the best contact runner in the game, meaning hard to knock him down,” Horton said. “There are different types of backs in the league, whether scat backs, which (Patriots’ Shane) Vereen is, vs. Matt Forte being a more balanced all-around runner, hard to get on the ground because he has a low center of gravity. He’s probably a better screen runner, so it presents to us a different challenge. We’re well aware of I think what his specialty is as far as the screen game.”
Michael Irvin on Gordon: NFL Network and former Cowboy’s Hall of Fame WR Michael Irvin said he talked with WR Josh Gordon when trade rumors were surrounding Gordon.
“I had to talk him off the ledge so to speak when they were talking about trading him,” Irvin said on Thursday’s edition of “M & M Podcast.”He was so hurt and crushed. I was like ‘man you are the only property of value.’ But he said he wants to be in Cleveland and wants to win in Cleveland so I respect that.”
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is thankful the Browns didn’t trade him.
“Josh is rolling,” he said. “He got some great looks last week. When you get manned up, it takes a lot of the decision making out for a lot of people. Then obviously your physical skills take over, and he did a good job of separating. Obviously, Jason (Campbell) did a good job of getting the ball [out] quickly. If you get them to those guys quick, they’re on the run and they got a chance of making good plays. He’s just rolling.”
Turner said that because of Gordon’s deep ball ability, it has allowed him to get open on the underneath routes.
“The good thing for Josh, and I think (Bill) Belichick talked about it a little bit last week, looking at us, is we are going to throw the ball up the field,” he said. “Whether you go back and look through the history of guys, there’s a lot of guys people don’t even remember. (Former NFL WR) Jerry Porter in Oakland had a real good run when he was going good. We’re going to give those big guys an opportunity to use their size and speed, but players make the system, and Josh is becoming a complete receiver.
“(Gordon) has learned how to line up,” he said. “He’s lined up in every spot, every position we have. He’s lined up on the right and the left and the slot on the right, the third receiver inside. He’s handled all the underneath routes. He’s gotten a lot better at understanding defenses and finding a hole in the zone coverages and beating the man coverage underneath. Then when you can run up the field like he can, it really helps you run the underneath routes.”
McGahee, Greco, Smith Out; Pinkston In: RB Willis McGahee (concussion), TE Andre Smith (calf) and OL John Greco (knee) were ruled out for this week’s game. Smith injured his calf in Thursday’s practice. The Browns listed 13 other players on the injury report, but all are listed as probable for the game.
OL Jason Pinkston will start at left guard for Greco. This will be the first start for Pinkston since suffering a season-ending blood clot after the sixth game of the 2012 season.
“It’s been a long, tough road for him,” Chudzinski said. “He was feeling better in training camp and then had the high ankle sprain.
“I’ve been impressed with his attitude,” he said. “He’s excited to play again.”
RB Chris Ogbonnaya is expected to start for McGahee.
Finishing Strong: Horton talked about the importance of the outside linebackers finishing the season strong. Last week, LB Paul Kruger had his best game with two sacks. LB Barkevious Mingo picked up his fifth sack. LB Jabaal Sheard also picked up a sack. Mingo and Sheard are playing outside linebacker for the first time.
“I think it’s critical, for a number of players, a number of players that played very well, Horton said. “And I think what it does, especially for our outside linebackers, with the exception of Kruger, who have all been hand-on-the-ground guys until this year, we’ve asked them to do something totally different than they’ve ever done.”
Horton said he expects a big improvement going into next season.
“Those are the guys as you look forward to next year will take the biggest leaps, because it’s a totally different thing for them,” he said. “They’ll be comfortable in the package. It’s happened in this system before. We’ve talked about how those guys take the biggest leaps because they’re doing something totally different than what they’ve done, whether it was in college or this game next here. But there’s been a number of players Coach Chud’s talked about. How you finish often leads to how you play next year.”
Weeden Cleared: QB Brandon Weeden (concussion) was cleared and will back up QB Jason Campbell on Sunday. Poyer Power: DB Jordan Poyer played over 30 snaps last week against the Patriots. He was a free agent the Browns signed several weeks ago after injuries to PR Armanti Edwards to return punts. He moved into the rotation when DB Chris Owens was lost for the season.
“Due to injuries, different packages, he’s played well,”Horton said. “He’s a very instinctive, athletic player that’s found a role. Obviously we picked him up late in the year. I’ve been impressed with his attention to detail, his study habits and his athletic ability on the field. He’s merited more playing time for us.”
Poyer was called for unnecessary roughness when he hit WR Julian Edelman after his touchdown late in last week’s game, prior to the onside kick which the Patriots recovered. Horton likes Poyer’s versatility.
“He’s been our punt-returner,” he said. “He’s been our personal protector on the punt team. He’s been our free safety. Probably in the offseason, we’ll try him at corner a little bit because he has that kind of rangy, hybrid-type body. I’ve been impressed with the kid. He’s been a professional for us.”
Toys for Tots Sunday: The Browns and local Marines will host the annual Toys for Tots game day toy drive at FirstEnergy Stadium gates prior to Sunday’s game against Chicago, the team’s final home contest this season.
Fans are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys for kids in need within Cuyahoga County. Browns alumni and volunteers from the Marine Corps will collect donations, including monetary contributions, as fans enter the stadium, beginning at 11 a.m.
On Tuesday, Browns players will give select children a new toy for the holidays at the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Warehouse, where donated toys are sorted, organized and distributed to local agencies and Northeast Ohio families. Players scheduled to be there are DB Johnson Bademosi, WR Davone Bess, TE Jordan Cameron, LB Darius Eubanks, OL Garrett Gilkey, P Spencer Lanning, OL Shawn Lauvao, RB Chris Ogbonnaya, LB Craig Robertson and LB Jabaal Sheard.
Last week, they didn’t even punt. Hopefully, we’ll get them to punt (this week).