VDM. (Victory Difficulty Meter)
The Bears have a rookie quarterback, making his first start on the road, against one of the league’s better teams. This is quite clearly an uphill climb.
What Must the Bears Do on Offense:
- Allow Justin Fields to get comfortable. This is a big moment in the kid’s life. If the Bears come out tossing it every down it will look like a starting pitcher that gets too amped up to start Game One of the World Series – a lot of high fastballs. Put the ball in David Montgomery’s hands. Throw a few bubble screens. Call a few designed runs for the quarterback. Slow the game down early.
- The Texans moved the ball effectively against the Browns until Tyrod Taylor left the game with an injury. And they did so by throwing the ball down the field. The Bears can’t win this game with the dink and dunk approach they favored under an Andy Dalton regime. They must stretch the field, and that means Darnell Mooney and Marquise Goodwin over the top. The Bears have now what the speed they’ve desired for years. Use it.
- Tight ends, tight ends, tight ends. The Bears have talent at the position. Jimmy Graham is still a matchup nightmare in the red zone and Cole Kmet can dictate terms in the middle of the field. But Matt Nagy can’t stick them at the end of Fields’ progressions and hope he gets there. Call their numbers. Make them the first read. Give them a chance to make plays.
What Must the Bears Do on Defense:
- Stop the run. Yes, this is a generic, goes-for-every-game bullet point but the injuries are starting to stack on the outside for Cleveland. Jarvis Landry won’t play this week. Odell Beckham doesn’t look like he’s playing anytime soon. The Browns will want to run the ball 25-30 times and if they’re productive with those runs, the Bears have very little chance of keeping them out of the end zone.
- Contain Baker Mayfield. Mayfield isn’t considered one of the game’s running quarterbacks but his ability to move the chains/score with his legs has been a difference maker for the Browns through the first two weeks. With receivers struggling to get separation down the field, the Bears can’t be undisciplined with their pass rush. They have to keep Mayfield in the pocket and when he breaks out of it, they can’t let him roam free.
- Tight ends, tight ends, tight ends. The Browns completed 11 passes to their tight ends – Harrison Bryant, Austin Hooper, David Njoku – last week. Baker only completed 19 passes the entire game. This is not the week to see aggressive, pass rushing Roquan Smith. This is the week for Roq to work the middle of field and limit the effectiveness Cleveland’s dynamic collection of tight ends.