Much-needed Briggs should return against Eagles
Nothing would give the Bears' beleaguered defense more of a boost than the return of seven-time pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs, but that won't happen Sunday in Cleveland against the Browns.
For the second straight day, Briggs practiced on a limited basis Friday, but he will miss his seventh straight game since fracturing his shoulder on Oct. 20. He is expected to play against the Eagles next Sunday in Philadelphia.
How much has the defense missed Briggs?
After his last full game the Bears were 12th in rushing yards allowed; they're now 32nd. They were 20th in total yards allowed, but now they're 27th.
"Lance is a playmaker in the run game and the passing game," said defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. "It's not just the intangibles that he brings in terms of leadership and experience and confidence. But he can actually make plays. He can win 1-on-1. He can get off blocks. He can run sideline to sideline. He can win 1-on-1 on running backs on blitzes and things like that.
"In the pass game he's quick; very instinctive. He's quick to diagnose and because of his experience, there's not a whole lot of plays he hasn't seen at some point in time, so he's quick to recognize those things."
Having Briggs on the weak side also provided a security blanket for rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic. Without Briggs, the Bears have had to plug in another rookie, Khaseem Greene, and they've had to live with the growing pains experienced by the two neophytes.
A healthy Briggs would help compensate for deficiencies up front and inexperience elsewhere.
"He gives you margin for error," Tucker said. "Players that can win one on one pretty much do that. He can do his job and then once he's secured his job, he can help out. He's a physical presence."
Don't be fooled:
The Browns have dropped four straight to plummet from the playoff picture, but Bears coach Marc Trestman says they're much better than their 4-9 record suggests.
The Browns have lost their last two by a combined 5 points. Last week, behind quarterback Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler's backup last season, the Browns dropped a 27-26 heartbreaker on the road against the Patriots. Campbell threw for 391 yards and had a 116.8 passer rating.
"Offensively they've done exceptionally well the last few weeks," Trestman said. "They're one of the top 10 teams in the league defensively (seventh in yards allowed), and No. 4 against the run. They're thick up front. They're good tacklers. They play well on the perimeter. They're doing a lot of things well right now on both sides of the ball."
By the numbers:
Matt Forte is the only player in the NFL with more than 1,000 rushing yards (1,073) and 500 receiving yards (518). He is also one of only two players with more than 6,000 rushing yards (6,400) and 2,500 receiving yards (2,843) since 2008. The other is Ray Rice (6,069 rushing, 2,968 receiving). Forte is tied with Danny Woodhead for most receptions (65) by a running back this season. ... Only eight players in NFL history have two 200-yard receiving games in the same season, and two of them will be on the field together on Sunday -- the Bears' Alshon Jeffery and the Browns' Josh Gordon, who both did it this year. Only four players in the NFL have more receiving yards than Alshon Jeffery's 1,193, including Gordon, who leads the league with 1,400.
The only other player besides Lance Briggs on the Bears' injury report is quarterback Jay Cutler, who is probable after a full practice Friday and will start barring anything unforeseen.
The Browns have two starters out: left guard John Greco (knee) and running back Willis McGahee (concussion/knee).