On Sunday, the 5-8 Chicago Bears aim to win their third consecutive game for the first time since December 2020. In their way stands the 8-5 Cleveland Browns, who currently sit as the AFC's fifth seed. For the second straight week, recently unretired quarterback Joe Flacco will be manning Cleveland's offense, but the defense features a familiar crew of game-wreckers, headlined by two-time All-Pro Myles Garrett.
The last time these two teams faced off, Garrett prevailed as the dominant player of the game, one that also marked Justin Fields' first as a starter. The star edge rusher racked up 4.5 of his team's nine sacks in what was a 20-point trouncing, but their impending matchup in Week 15 may go a different way.
The Bears are playing with rhythm right now, and have a good shot to add to their winning streak against a beat-up Browns unit. However, with Cleveland playing for a spot in the postseason, it will not be easy to add a loss to their 6-1 home record. Still, the Bears can succeed, but they will have to accomplish these three keys to victory:
The Chicago Bears offense needs to be dominant on the ground
Since returning from his thumb injury, Justin Fields has played some of his best football, especially through the air. While his ground production is far less than his near-record-setting performance last season, Fields is still ranked first amongst quarterbacks with nearly 51 rushing yards per game.
Dating back to last season, the Bears have had great success on the ground, but this year, the team has even more ball carriers to work with, including receiver D.J. Moore, who had three carries during the team's win a week ago. With several healthy sets of legs in the backfield, Fields can be more selective and opportunistic in his rushing attempts, rather than having to lean on it to get the offense going.
In a game that features two powerful defenses, it will be important for the offenses to establish a strong run game to take time off the clock and give the defense time to catch their breath on the sideline. The Bears have essentially done this in their past three games, where they have averaged 36 minutes and 21 seconds of time of possession per game, which equals out to about 61% of the game.
With Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson, and D'Onta Foreman all available, the Bears' offense can lean on their rushing attack while simultaneously using a diverse set of players in order to provide more complex looks for the Browns' defense.