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What went wrong for the Bears defense against the Browns on third-and-15

Nicholas Moreano Avatar
December 17, 2023

CLEVELAND — The Chicago Bears had Joe Flacco and the Browns’ offense right where they wanted them. With 56 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 17, and the Browns were faced with a third-and-15 at their own 47-yard line.

Advantage defense.

On the play, seven Bears defenders lined up on the line of scrimmage — making it look like an all-out blitz. Six players applied pressure. At the snap, Kyler Gordon blitzed from his nickel position while T.J. Edwards and Justin Jones dropped back into coverage. Flacco drifted back from the pressure and floated the ball over Jones to David Njoku for a 34-yard gain.

“So it’s a sim pressure, you’re simulating there and he’s the one guy dropping back,” Matt Eberflus said after the game. “Typically that pressure is gonna hit and the ball is going to be out quicker than what it was. Like I said, he retreated back a little bit, so that’s what it was. That’s what I saw on the field.”

Three plays later, the Browns went on to score the game-deciding field goal that would eventually give Cleveland a 20-17 victory.

That third-and-15 play wasn’t the only reason why the Bears lost the game, but it was highlighted from several defensive players in the locker room after the game.

That the case for Jones, who was asked to drop back in coverage.

“I’m just doing what the play call is,” Jones said to CHGO. “Maybe I could’ve seen him (Njoku) what he was doing. I probably could’ve got back a little more. I don’t know, probably play his low hip in that route. Maybe got a PBU. I could have got a little deeper in my drop, sat under it or something. It’s not what I practice.”

Jones also couldn’t identify how much he actually had practiced dropping back into coverage heading into this game.

It was clear that Jones was frustrated as he sat in his locker alongside rookie Gervon Dexter Sr.

When asked if there had been anything that changed in the fourth quarter defensively — since the Bears gave up 13 points — Jones went back to the play.

“Third-and-15,” Jones said. “That’s really the only thing that comes to my mind. That was a big play of the game. I don’t know. We got to play it better. We got to call it better. We got to play it better. That’s all.”

Jaquan Brisker was one of the blitzers on the third-and-15 play. Like Jones, he also had it on his mind.

Brisker was asked if Sunday’s loss to the Browns was a real back breaker, especially since Chicago was still fighting for a playoff spot.

“For sure, um, for sure, especially third-and-15,” Brisker said. “That shit was right there. I mean give our offense a chance, you know, tie ball game, three timeouts. Man, it’s not just one play but that was, that was big right there.”

Jones also dropped back into coverage on a third-and-8 late in the third quarter, and the Bears were able to get a sack and force a punt.

But on a critical down late in the game, Eberflus will hopefully learn that it’s better to have a defensive lineman rush the quarterback than drop back in coverage.

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