What We Learned from the Chicago Bears’ Week 7 Loss Against the Washington Redskins
The Chicago Bears had a tough loss at the hands of the Washington Redskins this week. This game became a shootout, as neither defense was able to do much to stop the other. Neither team played particularly well, but someone had to win. This was the Bears’ last game before their bye week, and they have a lot to look at on their week off. The Bears need to take this time to look inward and learn from their mistakes from the last seven weeks. This game in particular yielded much to be learned from, as injuries forced a number of players to see the field for the first time. The tape from this game should help the Bears learn a lot about their players and how they handled adversity mid-game. Here is what we learned from the Bears’ tough loss to the Redskins.
The Bears desperately need their bye week
The Bears were completely decimated with injuries in this game. Jay Cutler was the biggest name, and everyone within a 100-mile radius of Chicago is hoping that the bye week will be enough time for him to heal up. Until the Bears officially announce the severity of his injury, Bears fans will be obsessively checking social media for an update. Lance Briggs also left the game in the third quarter and would not return. Charles Tillman, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Blake Costanzo, and Major Wright would also both miss some time in this game, and a number of other players were banged up heading into this game. The Bears are hoping that this week off will be enough time for their players to heal up.
Something needs to change in the secondary
Another thing the Bears need to look at during their bye week is the defensive secondary. Wright and Chris Conte have been absolutely awful at safety. While an oft-injured Tillman along with Tim Jennings have given up the occasional big play from time to time, they have been pretty consistent once again. It is difficult to tell whether benching one of them is the best option, but something has to happen. They gave up a number of deep passes against the Redskins, including numerous broken coverages against unimpressive receivers. Whether the Bears feel a backup would be a better option remains to be seen, but what they are putting on the field right now has not been acceptable.
The defensive line is getting better
With the return of Stephen Paea, the Bears’ defensive line was noticeably better, getting more consistent penetration and disrupting plays in the backfield. Still, they were inconsistent and were bullied on running plays at times. A big reason for this was the amount of time they were on the field, as the Redskins won the time of possession battle nearly 34 to 26. Fatigue is one of the top neutralizers of defenses, and after awhile, the players get winded. It was apparent that the defense, and the line especially, played better after a long drive by the Bears’ offense. This defensive line improvement bodes well for the rest of the season, as the Bears’ younger linemen are beginning to step up and play well. David Bass, specifically, was in the backfield on a number of plays, and he looks like a great pickup by Phil Emery. Conversely, Shea McClellin struggled once again, and the Redskins often ran the ball towards him because of it. The Bears hope that as the season goes on, the younger players continue to improve and make the defensive line consistent once again.
Devin Hester never stopped being Devin Hester
Devin Hester reminded everyone how explosive he could be back in week two against the Minnesota Vikings, where he set the Bears’ franchise record for most kickoff return yards in a game with 249. In this game, he found his punt return “mojo” too, and it could not have come at a better time for the Bears. Almost immediately after Cutler went down with his injury, Hester caught a punt at the Bears’ 19 yardline and could not be brought down. It was a momentum swing for the Bears that would allow them to stay in the game and eventually take a late lead. Although it would not be enough for the win, it was huge for the team, and it forced the Redskins to kick away from him for the rest of the game. In addition, it will likely influence future opponents to kick away from him even more than they had planned, and that should only give the Bears’ offense even better field position.
Mobile quarterbacks will continue to give the Bears trouble
Robert Griffin had an excellent game against the Bears’ defense, forcing them on their heels all game and keeping them out of their comfort zone. He finished with 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception to go with 84 rushing yards on 11 runs. The Bears did not have an answer for his mobility, and he always seemed to be one step ahead of them both physically and metaphorically. Last season, the Bears struggled against other mobile quarterbacks, most painfully Russell Wilson. The injuries certainly did not make it easy, but even the starters were consistently beat. Fortunately for them, Michael Vick appears to be the only mobile quarterback they will have to face during the remainder of the season.
Lance Briggs is the lifeblood of this defense
When Lance Briggs left the game with an injury in the second half, the defensive play of the Bears significantly worsened. Briggs was one of the few bright spots, making plays for the defense and rallying his guys to make key stops. He was by no means a perfect player in this game, but he was one of the few players that seemed to be in the right place at the right time on nearly every play. He played intelligently and powerfully, and that is a big reason he leads the league in tackles for losses since 2003. Briggs is also the defensive playcaller, so if he is going to miss one or more games, the defense is really going to miss him. He and Blake Costanzo are the only two linebacker on the roster who have played in this system before, so either rookie Jon Bostic or newcomer James Anderson would be relied on to lead the team in a system they are still learning. The Bears desperately need Briggs to come back soon.
Josh McCown is not the old, inept passer that many thought he would be
When Jay Cutler was taken to the locker room after his injury, most Bears fans thought the game was over for the Bears. They thought Josh McCown was incapable of throwing the ball further than 15 yards and too old to move around in the pocket. He used this game to show them how wrong they were. He went 14 for 20 with 204 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 33 yards, and his mobility is one of his most underrated aspects. McCown looked calm, collected, and confident in the pocket as he made some crucial third down conversions. He showed off his arm strength too, connecting with Jeffery on a 28-yard dime. He was able to drive down the field and give the Bears a three-point lead with four minutes left in the game. Even though the defense could not make a stop, he gave the Bears hope if Cutler is going to miss a few games. If Cutler is out for the remainder of the season, the Bears could opt to go elsewhere for quarterback play, but in the short term, McCown is a great option. The team has already re-signed Jordan Palmer, within an hour of the game’s end. (Note: I wrote about how McCown would be a quality backup in June here)