Heartbreaker: Bears collapse in fourth quarter against Browns
Scott Galvin - USA Today Sports

Heartbreaker: Bears collapse in fourth quarter against Browns

by - Senior Writer -

CLEVELAND - Don't look now, but the Chicago Bears (5-9) are quickly becoming a team no one wants to play down the stretch, at least defensively-wise. Entering Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns (9-5) with nine interceptions in the past three games, the Bears defense was at it again as they picked off Joe Flacco three times.

One of those interceptions led to six points as Tremaine Edmunds' 45-yard pick-six gave the Bears a 14-7 lead before extending their lead to 17-7 after three. Considering Justin Fields had a rough day with less than 170 yards passing, it was going to be up to the Bears defense to win this game and for the most part they were living up to that.

It wasn't until the fourth quarter when the Bears had one of those classic late-game meltdowns as Flacco and the Browns scored 17 points in the final 15 minutes, capped off by a game-winning Dustin Hopkins field goal with less than a minute to. All wasn't lost as the Bears had a chance to tie things up in regulation, with Fields hooking up with Tyler Scott for 28 years to move the ball inside Browns territory. Three plays later, it was time for a hail mary, and what looked to be an improbable catch by Darnell Mooney on the ground turned into a game-ending interception as the Bears fell to the Browns 20-17, further crippling their hopes of a possible playoff run.

A big reason for the Bears recent surge has been a defense that has been thriving since Matt Eberflus took over the play calling. The same can be said about the Browns and their defense, as the Jim Schwartz-led group has been one of the best in the league all season. Defense was the name of the game early, as both teams combined for nine punts in their first nine possessions while also putting up less than 70 combined yards of offense.

The Bears defense then came through with their first big play of the game as Eddie Jackson picked off Flacco for the first of three interceptions by the defense and returned it 27 yards down to the one. It didn't come easy, but four plays later, Fields found Cole Kmet for the game's first points as the five-yard reception gave the Bears an early 7-0 lead. Cleveland responded on their next possession and took the ball 84 yards on 12 plays while taking nearly half of the quarter.

Flacco played a massive part in that as he found Amari Cooper for 42 yards to put the ball in Bears territory. Flacco was just getting started as he completed three more passes on that drive, including one to David Njoku from two yards out to tie things up 7-7. Looking for points late in the first half, Roschon Johnson got things started with a 22-yard gain, and just like that, the Bears offense was in business. Another big hookup to DJ Moore put the Bears within field goal range, but Eberflus chose to go for it instead of kicking a 55-yard field goal, resulting in an interception to end the half.

Little did the Bears know that those points would come back to bite them, as their offense was basically nonexistent throughout the second half. After punting it away on their first possession, the Bears defense continued to give Flacco fits with Edmunds picking him off and taking it the distance for the 45 yards to give the Bears a 14-7 lead. They got the ball back a few minutes later, and after Fields found Scott for another first down, the Bears were again in field goal range. That completion came after several runs to move the chains as Cairo Santos knocked home another field goal (41 yards) to extend the Bears lead to 17-7.

Those were not only the game's final points for the Bears, but when you look at the offense, they had fewer than 75 yards the rest of the way, as it would come down to their defense. Fortunately, they continued to answer the bell as Tyrique Stevenson intercepted Flacco at the goal line and returned it 35 yards. That came after a muffed punt that initially gave the Browns the ball, so justice was served on that play.

Unfortunately for the Bears, they were unable to do anything with that as a big first down run from Fields went to waste, resulting in a turnover on downs. That stop seemed to be the momentum shift the Browns needed, with Flacco going up top to former Bears WR Marquise Goodwin as the 57-yard hookup moved the ball inside the 20. Three plays later, the Bears' defense stood tall, but Hopkins still banged home a 33-yard field goal to make things 17-10.

With both teams having to settle for punts on three straight possessions, the Browns had the ball in their hands, but had to go at least 80 yards for the tie. Not only did they make that look easy, but they needed only six plays to go those 80 yards as Flacco found Cooper over the middle, and he took care of the rest out running the Bears down the sidelines for 51 yards, and just like that, it was a 17-17 game.

Three plays later, the Bears gave the ball back to Cleveland with less than two minutes standing between the end of regulation and Overtime. Finding Njoku for 31 yards to start the drive was a great start, as the Browns were in Chicago territory. The game's key play came on third and long as Flacco appeared to have no one opens downfield, only to loft it into the hands of Njoku for another 30-yard hookup to move the ball into field goal range.

A few plays later saw Hopkins deliver that field as his 34-yarder gave the Browns a 20-17 lead and less than 35 seconds to go. Needing a field goal to force Overtime, Fields was looking to make something happen and fired one to Scott, who proceeded to drop a would-be big play. Scott redeemed himself on the next play, hauling in a 30-yard reception to put the Bears on the edge of Field Goal range. That was as close as Chicago would get as the Fields hail mary with five seconds to go went into and out of the hands of Mooney as the Browns hold on for another comeback win.

Although better than his first start in Cleveland, Fields continued to struggle, solving Brown's defense as he went 19-40 for 166 yards, one TD, and two INTs (one to end each half). 52 of those yards went to Moore on four catches, with Scott adding 49 yards on three receptions. Cleveland also held Fields to 30 yards on the ground and allowed 88 yards rushing in total, as Johnson led the way with 39 yards.

"I didn't play good enough," Fields said to the media after the loss. "I got to be better. Couldn't get it done on offense."

Despite his struggles, Flacco still had a great game, completing 28 of 44 passes for 374 yards and two scores. Cooper and Njoku were a big reason, with Cooper picking up 109 yards and one score and Njoku adding 104 yards and the other score. Chicago did a great job stopping the Browns rushing attack as they held Cleveland to 29 yards with Jerome Ford having 21 of those yards.

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