Dreams are growing in Chicago. Playoff chatter is amplifying. With a recent stretch of quality play and wins over the Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions over the last four games, the Bears are allowing themselves to imagine a storybook ending to their once-dispiriting season. Players and coaches know a microfocus will be needed, specifically toward Sunday’s game against the Browns, to keep such dreams alive. But hey, life has begun to feel more fun again at Halas Hall and around Chicago.
As we head for Week 15, here’s a snapshot look at 12 notable facts and figures.
Rank of the Bears defense, which has allowed 314.5 yards per game this season. That’s a major improvement from a year ago, when the Bears ranked 29th in total defense (375.9 ypg). Over the last five games, the Bears have climbed from 23rd to 12th in total defense and 13th to second in interceptions. They also own the No. 2 rushing defense, allowing 83.7 yards per game.
NFL rank of the Browns passing defense, which is allowing an average of 159.7 yards per game. The Browns have been particularly stingy at home, allowing 105.1 passing yards and 12.6 points per game. They lead the league in total defense (263 ypg) and third-down efficiency (29.0%). The Browns also rank fourth in interception rate (3.2%)and 10th in sacks (38).
Net passing yards by Bears quarterback Justin Fields in his first NFL start, a Week 3 game in 2021 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Fields was battered all afternoon in that contest. The Browns recorded nine sacks for 67 yards and hit the Bears rookie 15 times. Fields completed six of his 20 passes for 68 yards. The Bears squeezed a field goal out of their opening drive in that 26-6 loss. But over their final 10 possessions, they mustered only 23 yards of offense and five first downs.
Passing touchdowns from Fields during his last visit to Cleveland. Sure, that was in the 2022 preseason finale. But it was also a chance for Fields to vanquish some of the demons from that first start against the Browns as a rookie. In that preseason Bears victory, Fields completed 14 of 16 passes for 156 yards and threw touchdowns to Ryan Griffin, Dante Pettis and Cole Kmet as the Bears rolled up 198 total yards and 21 points before halftime.
Consecutive pass attempts without an interception by Fields, the longest streak of his career. Fields’ last pick came in the second quarter of a Week 6 loss to the Vikings, a pass that was redirected high into the air when Danielle Hunter hit the Bears quarterback after a protection miscommunication. In three starts since returning from a dislocated right thumb, Fields is 62-for-93 passing for 609 yards with two touchdown passes and a 92.1 rating. (For what it’s worth, the Bears record for consecutive passes without an interception is 205, set by Kyle Orton in 2008.)
Starting quarterbacks used by the Browns, who are on to 38-year-old veteran Joe Flacco. Flacco signed to the team’s practice squad Nov. 20 and has made two starts, including Sunday’s 31-27 defeat of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Flacco was 26-for-45 for 311 yards and had touchdown tosses of 34 and 30 yards to tight end David Njoku plus a 41-yard scoring strike to David Bell. The Browns were 5-1 in games started by Deshaun Watson this season, went 1-1 with short-time former Bear P.J. Walker starting and 1-2 behind rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The Browns are one of just seven teams in the Super Bowl era to win at least one game with four starting quarterbacks, a fraternity that includes the 2015 Houston Texans, 2007 Panthers, 1998 Saints and the 1987, ‘88 and ‘89 Patriots.
Interceptions by cornerback Jaylon Johnson this season, all coming over the last seven games. Not only is that a career high, Johnson had only one interception in the 37 games he played over his first three seasons and was without a pick in the first four games he played this year. With his rookie contract due to expire in March, Johnson could be positioning himself for a top-of-the-market reward with his ball production. He is tied for fourth in the NFL in interceptions behind only DaRon Bland (eight), Geno Stone (six) and Jessie Bates (five). As a team, the Bears have nine interceptions over the last three games.
Quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Reference, recorded by Montez Sweat in the five games he has played since joining the Bears. Pressures, as defined by PFR, are plays on which a player records a sack, a hurry or a quarterback knockdown. Sweat has 3 1/2 sacks with the Bears. And since his arrival, the defense’s sack total has ballooned from 10 in the first eight games to 21 after 13 games.
Browns players on injured reserve, including six Week 1 starters. Starting right tackle Jack Conklin was lost for the season after Week 1 with a knee injury. Running back Nick Chubb suffered a gruesome season-ending knee injury the following week. Safety Rodney McLeod tore his biceps last month. Quarterback Deshaun Watson had surgery to repair a fracture in his throwing shoulder. Left tackle Jedrick Willis had season-ending knee surgery this week. And safety Grant Delpit was placed on I.R. on Wednesday with a groin injury. Rookie right tackle Dawand Jones, meanwhile, who started nine games this season, also landed on IR this week and will need surgery after injuring his knee last week in practice.
Field-goal attempts made this season by Browns kicker Dustin Hopkins, a league high. That includes three game-winning kicks — a 29-yarder in the final two minutes against the 49ers in Week 6, a 40-yarder as time expired to beat the Ravens four weeks later and a 34-yarder with two seconds remaining to down the Steelers in Week 11. Hopkins is 31-for-34 on field-goal attempts and has made all eight of his attempts from 50 yards or longer. Bears kicker Cairo Santos is also perfect (6-for-6) on kicks of at least 50 yards. Santos is 26-for-28 on field-goal attempts this season.
Career sacks by Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett, including a team-high 13 this season. Garrett is the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks and has recorded at least 10 in six consecutive seasons. The four-time Pro Bowler set the Browns’ single-season sack record with 16 in 2021, matched that total last season and is threatening to tie or break the record again this year.
NFC teams with a winning record since Week 4, including the Bears, who have overcome an 0-4 start to climb to 5-8. The best team in the NFC since Week 4 is the Dallas Cowboys, who have gone 7-2. Four other squads are 6-3 in that span — the 49ers, Eagles, Lions and Vikings. The Bears are 5-4 and head to Cleveland with their first two-game winning streak since late in the 2021 season. The last time the Bears won three consecutive games was in Weeks 14-16 in 2020, when they beat the Texans, Vikings and Jaguars to revive their playoff chances.