The Chicago Bears needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive when they faced the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 15.

Although the Bears struggled early, and trailed 24-17 heading into the final quarter, they found their rhythm in the fourth quarter, scoring 21 consecutive points en route to a 38-31 victory.

Let's take a quick look at five things we learned from Chicago's 38-31 victory over Cleveland.

 

Jay Cutler's play validates Marc Trestman's decision to start him

When Trestman opted to instert Cutler back into the lineup this week, it was a decision that was questioned by both fans and some of the players as well.

According to ESPN, some of the players expressed concern over the fact that Cutler had thrown multiple interceptions during practice this week and that it had been some time since Josh McCown had thrown any.

Well, in spite of shaky first half in which he threw two interceptions and one touchdown, Cutler bounced back in the second half, completing nine of his last 12 passes (22 of 31 overall) to go along with two touchdowns.

Overall, Cutler did not look sharp at times and he relied on Brandon Marshall a little too much, targeting him 13 times. However, he was able to shake off his early miscues, and threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns that helped lead the Bears to their first road win in over a month.

 

Offense racks up huge numbers for second straight week

Chicago recorded 490 total yards against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14, but most experts thought that was a result of playing against a poor defense that offered little resistance.

Against the Browns, a team came into this contest ranked 7th in total defense, the Bears offense played well once again, accumulating 440 yards while giving up just two sacks.

In addition to that Matt Forte (24 carries, 127 yards) topped the 100-yard mark for the third straight week. These numbers once again proves what this unit is capable of when it is clicking on all cylinders.

 

Browns' defense played good, but not good enough

Although their record does not reflect it, the Browns have a pretty respectable defense and they certainly did not make things easy for the Bears in this game.

In fact, the Browns recorded three takeaways, two of which were returned for touchdowns, that accounted for 17 of their 31 points.

Unfortunately, they had no answer for the Bears in the fourth quarter as they gave up three consecutive touchdowns to the road team while giving up over 100 rushing yards in the process.
This essentially put the game out of reach.

 

Bears' run defense finally snaps dubious skid

Over the past few seasons, the Bears have featured one of the top-five defenses in the league. But thanks to injuries to several players including Lance Briggs, Nate Collins, and D.J. Williams, this unit has struggled against the run this year.

How bad have they played against the run you ask? Well, they are ranked last in the NFL, giving up 157 yards per outing. In addition to that, this unit had allowed a 100-yard rusher in six straight games, which ties a league record.

Fortunately, for the Bears, the streak finally came to an end as they held the Browns to just 93 yards on the ground.

This is a trend that will need to continue if Chicago is going to record wins in the final two weeks of the season.

 

Bears sit atop the division for the moment

Although the Detroit Lions have had ample opportunities to distance themselves from the Bears in the race for the division crown, they have failed to do so.

Their latest blown opportunity came in Week 14 when they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles, which allowed Chicago to remain in playoff contention.

The Lions will cap off Week 15 with a must-win game against the defending-champion Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football.

A victory over the Ravens, and Detroit remains ahead of Chicago in the standings. But if they slip up again, Chicago will be in control of its playoff destiny.

 

James Tillman III is a resident of the Chicago-land area, who follows all the teams in the local region. James is currently a sports contributor for various sites including Football Nation, Sports Kings/Pass the Pill and Sports Rantz Magazine. James is also a former Featured Sports Contributor for Yahoo! Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @jtillman9693