After rushing for just 43 yards against the Lions last week, the Bears face a bigger challenge this week against the Browns, who rank seventh in the NFL in rushing defense (96 yards per game) and No. 1 in yards allowed per carry (3.3).
The Bears are ranked 11th in rushing yards (118.6 per game) and eighth in yards per carry (4.4), but with a remarkable disparity from week to week. The Bears have four of the 11 highest rushing totals in the NFL this season — 220 yards or more each time. But they also have the two lowest, and five games of 68 yards or fewer. But they’ve been hot-and-cold all season. Jordan Howard, fourth in the NFL in rushing with 1,069 yards, has rushed for 6, 38, 147 and 37 yards in his last four games.
“[The Browns] stack a lot of guys in the box — a little bit similar to the Saints,” coach John Fox said. “Obviously personnel is different, but the same mindset and some of the things they do are pretty aggressive —stacking the box in particular on early downs.”
The Bears have shied away from running the ball in those situations, as they did against the Lions last week, when Mitch Trubisky threw 46 passes. Opponents seem to be catching on.
“We’ve kind of seen more of that of late,” Fox said. “We’re gonna have to execute better in the passing game to combat that. That’ll be our challenge on Sunday.”
Guard Josh Sitton (ankle) did not participate in practice — and has not all week — and is doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Browns. Tight end Adam Shaheen (chest), wide receiver Josh Bellamy (foot), guard Tom Compton (concussion) and safety Chris Prosinski (concussion) were limited and are questionable.
Safety Adrian Amos (hamstring) had full participation and is expected to start against the Browns.
Shaheen was anticipating a big finish to an uneven rookie season when he had four receptions for 44 yards and a touchdown in the 33-7 rout of the Bengals on Dec. 10. But he suffered a chest injury in the game, did not play against the Lions.
“There’s nothing I hate more than sitting around just rehabbing,” Shaheen said. “I want to be on the field more than anything. I can’t stand being in the training room. This sucks. It’s frustrating.”
Shaheen has 12 receptions for 127 yards (10.6 avg.) and three touchdowns this season. He said he feels good about the progress he’s made even without impressive numbers. He’s developed as a blocker and adjusted to the speed of an NFL offenses and defenses.
“I still have a long way to go,” Shaheen said. “I’ve learned so much and gotten so much better at this craft. I’m really excited to hopefully get back out there —if not this year, then I have the whole offseason and head for next year.”
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