3 and Out: Bears blow 10-point lead, fall at buzzer in Cleveland

Chicago Bears wide receiver Darnell Mooney sit on the field after an incomplete pass in the second half against the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023.

The Bears couldn’t hold a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and Justin Fields’ Hail Mary attempt to Darnell Mooney popped free for the game-ending interception in a 20-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Here’s what you need to know:

Three moments that mattered

1. Dagger: With 36 seconds remaining in the game, Browns kicker Dustin Hopkins drilled a 34-yard attempt to sink the Bears – and their slim playoff hopes likely went with it. The Bears did manage to get to Cleveland’s 45-yard line before the Hail Mary, which Mooney nearly was able to bring in.

2. New ball game: With 3:08 left in the fourth quarter, Browns quarterback Joe Flacco connected with Amari Cooper for an unlikely 51-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17. The throw was on a rope and Cooper was able to escape the down the sideline.

3. Rumble bumble: Bears linebacker Tremaine Edmunds returned an interception for a touchdown with 13:50 left in the third quarter for the 14-7 lead. A massive hit from TJ Edwards popped the ball free and Edmunds took care of the rest. It was Edmunds’ fourth interception on the season.

Three things that worked

1. Montez Sweat: It’s well-documented at this point statistically, and simply visually, how much Sweat’s infusion has meant to this defense. It continued with three sacks on Sunday and highly productive rushes. It‘s a transformed pass-rush ever since his arrival, and he continues to get home.

2. Rush ‘D’: The Browns had little to no success in rushing the football and that is a credit to Gervon Dexter, Justin Jones and company up front. Cleveland finished with 29 rushing yards. The top rusher was Jerome Ford with 20. That’s certainly getting noticed in film work in the following days.

3. Turnover machines: To add, the Bears’ secondary had interceptions from Tyrique Stevenson and Eddie Jackson. The Bears continues to create turnovers in bunches after a slow start to the season.

Three things that didn’t

1. Finish: The Bears 10-point lead to close the third quarter wasn’t enough. The offense finished with three punts before the last-second Hail Mary. It has been a theme all season for this team.

2. Close isn’t good enough: The Bears opted, correctly, to be aggressive on a fourth-and-1 to open the fourth quarter. The playcall to get Fields running on the edge was the right one, but the Browns simply made a better play. Browns defensive back Cameron Mitchell nicked Fields just enough to force the turnover on downs by a half a yard. It’s one play, but pick a drive where the Bears needed points at the end. They failed.

3. You have to be kidding me: Tight end Robert Tonyan isn’t utilized very much in passing situations, but his drop with 4:05 left in the first quarter was all-but-destined for a 70-yard plus touchdown. Fields placed gorgeous touch on the pass and couldn’t have been any better. It could’ve been a huge, early momentum swing.

What’s next?

The Bears host the Arizona Cardinals on next Sunday at Soldier Field. Kickoff is 3:25 p.m.

Jacob Bartelson

Jacob Bartelson

Jake is a full-time sports reporter writing primarily for the Kane County Chronicle covering preps. His collective work is featured across several Shaw markets and platforms, including Friday Night Drive and Bears Insider. Jake began full-time in 2017.