The Chicago Bears defense caused a number of problems for the Cleveland Browns on offense, but what stood out was how often the Browns beat themselves on offense with pre-snap miscues and missed opportunities.
Since Kevin Stefanski took over as head coach of the team, the Cleveland Browns offense has become known for being a smooth operation. Play calls come in quickly, Baker Mayfield has time to go through pre-snap checks, put the team in the best position possible and run the play. It's even more important given how much the Browns utilize motions and shifts.
Against the Chicago Bears, in the two biggest plays of the first half, a pair of fourth downs on the opponents' side of the field, the Browns offensive operation was a mess.
Plays came in late. The first fourth down barely got off before the play clock hit zero. And when it did, Jedrick Wills didn't even move, allowing the Bears a completely uncontested sack. Everything about that situation was uncharacteristically sloppy.
That was the type of miscue that was commonplace under previous head coaches. Not Stefanski. Ultimately, dominance by the defense allowed the Browns to take control of the game in the second half, which minimized these mistakes.
The Browns were not wrong to go for it on these fourth downs. They were for one three yards respectively. The problem is the Browns beat themselves before the Bears had a chance. The Browns should have called timeout both times. These are the exact situations first half timeouts are prescribed.
In a closer contest, these operational blunders might cost the Browns a game. Stefanski knows it and blamed himself in the post game.
"We have to be better. I have to be better. When we are at home and we are not dealing with the crowd noise, our operation has to be on point, and it was not early. I will get to the bottom of that because you can’t play like that in your own building when crowd noise is not an issue.”
The Bears did a great job of putting pressure on quarterback Baker Mayfield, able to sack him five times in the game. He also came into the game with a sore left shoulder. Nevertheless, Mayfield missed around half a dozen throws that he normally makes which would've enabled the Browns to put the Bears away far earlier than they did.
Whether it was the wheel to Demetric Felton or the drag route from Harrison Bryant, Mayfield missed throws that are typically routine for him. The two examples that stand out the most, the Browns came away with just three points on those two drives.
Coming into the game, Mayfield was leading the league in completion percentage and these were throws that would've allowed him to put up gaudy stats against a good defense. Mayfield was visibly angry at himself when he missed Bryant, the last of these open throws he was unable to hit.
Mayfield made his fair share of great throws in the game including a pass to Rashard Higgins with pressure in his face and a number of back shoulder throws to both Odell Beckham Jr. as well as Donovan Peoples-Jones.
That won't change how disappointing it will be for Mayfield to have missed opportunities that would've lead his team to points.
Mayfield did not play poorly, but he didn't have his A game. The offense was still able to generate enough points in no small part because the defense was effective on a historic level. In games where the opponent is able to put up points, the miscues by the Browns might have cost them a game. Fortunately, they can learn from them while winning and correct them for when they truly need a better performance on offense.