I have never been a masochist and would like to think I never will be, but this job can make that challenging if you stick around long enough.
I’ve now been through the tape of the Bears-Browns game a handful of times, because that’s what we do here every Sunday night and Monday to try and give you an objective analysis of where the Bears are at after each game.
This one wasn’t easy to get through.
OFFENSE: I am not going to go through the offense position by position to give everyone an F.
David Montgomery brought the same energy he does every week. He dug out every extra yard available to him with rarely any open space to run, and no one ever quit.
Give Montgomery a B or a B-, but overall the offense was terrible. Grade: F
DEFENSIVE LINE: This group was strong and particularly impressive with the continued absence of Eddie Goldman. Akiem Hicks, Angelo Blackson and Margus Hunt. All made at least one impact play, and Mario Edwards Jr. made his presence felt immediately in his first game back from suspension with a sack.
Rookie Khyiris Tonga totaled five tackles in place of Goldman and the roughing call he took wasn’t a penalty until a year or two ago when the league started making quarterbacks nearly untouchable. Bilal Nichols racked up six tackles in a solid day’s work. Grade: B+
LINEBACKERS: Khalil Mack answered any questions I raised about him last week with his best effort of the season in spite of having to go to the locker room in the second quarter with a bruised foot. He then went to another level returning and playing even better.
Robert Quinn is playing as well as he has at any point in his career right now. Mack and Quinn are raising the play of everyone around them.
Trevis Gipson got the first extended playing time of his career and while not spectacular he did fit in. Roquan Smith played his usual excellent game, and Alec Ogletree was again solid in relief of Danny Trevathan. Grade: A-
SECONDARY: Jaylon Johnson continues to excel, but Kindle Vildor appeared a bit overmatched for the first time. Duke Shelley was better than he was against the Bengals but still a concern.
Eddie Jackson and Deon Bush, in relief of Tashaun Gipson, were solid but several times took bad angles and missed run stops, and either Smith was too shallow or Jackson was too deep in zone coverage on the Browns’ first touchdown toss to Austin Hooper. Grade: B-
That the defense allowed only one touchdown in the second half and forced three field goals in spite of how ridiculously long they were on the field was impressive.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Punt coverage was still a concern, but that was in part because Patrick O’Donnell had a huge day, booming one kick after another and leaving some space for returns. He averaged 56.7 yards and still finished 42.0 net and did an excellent job consistently flipping field position. Grade: B
COACHING: It is important to note the defense did some nice things, and defensive coordinator Sean Desai and his staff may have something brewing here, possibly another gear, and they’ve done everything without at least two starters in each of the first three weeks. They were missing four against Cleveland.
But you can’t look at the offense in Cleveland and give the staff a passing grade – no pun intended.
I will not pile on the game plan like so many others because none of us ever saw it or can say for sure what it was.
Game plans are fluid and made to adjust when teams take something away, and any coach worth his salt can take one thing away if he wants to. The Browns’ plan was to keep Justin Fields in the pocket.
But if head coach Matt Nagy went to his alternatives they were no better than his original plan. The rookie QB clearly wasn’t ready for the moment and shouldn’t have been out there if the coaches couldn’t find better positions to put him in to succeed.
Nagy failed in this one, and while it is definitely not time for a change at the top yet, the days are growing shorter, literally and figuratively.
Another performance or two like Sunday’s and that needle could start to move quickly. Grade: F