If last week's loss to the Niners was Exhibit A that the Bears were not ready to be a playoff team, this week's game against the Redskins was Exhibit B. I know the winter holidays are generally called the season of giving, but that doesn't have to involve giving away wins at home to teams that come in winless on the road!
This one got started fast and ugly; the Redskins' first two drives spanned 23 plays and 173 yards combined - and as you can guess, both ended with touchdowns and ate up a combined 11:48 of clock. Jordan Reed was a monster in this game, and he was instrumental in these first two drives, nearly scoring on both before Alfred Morris punched in his first of the year and Kirk Cousins sprang free and lost his mark en route to his own three yard score, his fourth of the year. And after a nondescript first drive, the Bears had gotten a little momentum going themselves before Kyle Long let Trent Murphy get around him untouched, and Murphy absolutely blasted Jay Cutler before he could react, forcing a fumble and getting the ball right back for the Redskins.
Fortunately, after that drive and another ended in a 3 and out for negative yardage for the Redskins, the Bears struck as the half wound down. Deonte Thompson streaked down the field and Jay Cutler found him for a 36-yard gain, and two plays later, Cutler found Alshon Jeffery in the end zone for 20 yards and a touchdown to pull the game to 14-7.
Much was made, and rightfully so, of John Fox's timeout usage, or lack thereof, to end the first half; it seemed like he'd be willing to just take the field goal, but the deep throw to Thompson changed the situation - and may have even played a role later on in the game.
Getting the ball back in the second half, the Bears didn't take advantage right away, punting on a three-and-out, and Jordan Reed picked up an actual touchdown himself (after coming close twice) on a five yard strike. Reed picked up 32 yards earlier in the drive, but Matt Jones proved tough to take down several times, in one case looking stopped for a third down, but a strong second effort pushed him across for first and goal. The drive also featured a delay of game on third and goal coming out of a delay of game, which, frankly, shouldn't happen.
But from that moment, the Bears decided to wake up for a bit. Marc Mariani picked up 13 yards for a first down, then Dashon Goldson dove at Jeremy Langford's head about ten seconds after a play ended, giving the Bears a free 15 yards. Jeffery picked up 11, Langford picked up another 19 on two plays, and Zach Miller hauled in the score. Miller had a pretty good game stepping in for the injured reserved Martellus Bennett, with 5 receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown.
The next drive, Kirk Cousins got greedy and tried to launch a deep one to Pierre Garcon, and Kyle Fuller snared it, becoming the first Bear to record two interceptions this season. The Bears immediately converted to tie the game, as Matt Forte rushed for all 21 yards himself on three plays, and you'd think at this point the Bears were going to do what the Niners had just done to them the week before.
It should also be noted these were the Bears' first touchdowns in the third quarter all season.
The Redskins, looking for a spark, on the next drive hit Desean Jackson for 29 yards down the left sideline, but after closing to 4th and 4 at the 29 yard line, Dustin Hopkins banged in a 47-yard field goal, and the Redskins took the lead. That's where, again, the fun begins.
The Bears punted on three plays, and the game turned into offenses getting decent production but playing the punting field goal game. The Redskins picked up 42 yards before punting to the Bears 6; the Bears flipped field position right back on the Redskins by pushing the ball 55 yards, including a 26-yard conversion on 3rd and 7 by Zach Miller, then an immediate 24-yard catch and run by Marc Mariani. Two incompletions and a 2-yard reception to Jeffery that everybody at the stadium and elsewhere (including CloudyFuture's grandma) was expecting later, the Bears kicked the ball back to the Redskins' 8.
Matt Jones was big again for the Redskins, grinding out tough carries before eventually having a toss launched in his general direction, which he somehow took in, landing untouched on the ground before casually tossing the ball aside - a fumble - and having it bounce straight back to him as the Bears started pouncing on it. The Redskins didn't score, but gave the ball back with a touchback.
Things got really interesting here, as Jay Cutler immediately countered a Hroniss Grasu false start with a 50-yard deep strike to Alshon Jeffery, pushing down immediately to field goal range with about two minutes to spare. Enough to at least get closer, maybe grind out a first down or two within the allotted time by hitting the sticks, hitting the sidelines, that sort of thing, right?
No, instead, the Bears went straight for the end zone on second down, and Cutler underthrew Jeffery, who got behind two defenders and would have been a touchdown if delivered with more air. A second deep strike on 3rd and 7 missed Eddie Royal, and the Bears trotted out Robbie Gould, who couldn't possibly miss another game-tying field goal, right?
Wrong. Gould pushed a 50-yard attempt wide right, and the Redskins had their win.
- No, I don't hate the decision to take a shot at the end zone - it's great aggressiveness, especially if Cutler executes like he's capable of. The second attempt, though, wasn't so great. I might've liked to see Miller on that 8-10 yard out past the sticks to the sideline, which would give the Bears another three shots and/or stick the Bears with, at worst, a 41 or 42 yard field goal. Don't settle for a 50-yarder if you don't have to.
- Statistically, in touchdowns, yardage, average and passer rating, Cutler had a superior game to Cousins, but Cousins had the higher ESPN QBR. Cutler did miss a couple deep throws - overthrew Jeffery once early in the game, underthrew him late in the game - but his game could have been quite a bit better with better execution on some of those throws, and maybe with a bit better game-calling, as well, such as not calling a screen on 3rd and 9 when everybody can tell it's coming. You almost got picked on it in Green Bay, you did get picked on it against the Niners, and on this one, everybody reacted as if they were stopping a screen.
- I decided to take a look at the down and distance on third downs, and frankly, I don't know how a team can hope to stay competitive when in 3rd and long situations as often as the Bears have been. 3rd and 24, punt; converted 3rd and 11 and 3rd and 8 before the fumble; 3rd and 28 (punted, of course); converted 3rd and 8 to Deonte Thompson before the touchdown; 3rd and 3 (sack); 3rd and 2 resulted in the Miller touchdown; 3rd and 10 after a no-gain rush and an incomplete pass; converted 3rd and 7 to Miller for 26 and failed 3rd and 10 on the busted Jeffery screen; finally missed 3rd and 7 on the deep throw to Royal.
If you're following along, that's two plays on third and short - and the Bears converted five of the eleven third downs in total. I'm not complaining about their performances on third down - I mean, you're converting about 45% with an average third down distance of 10.7 yards. The problem is staying at that down and distance long-term, and that includes getting nothing on first and second down. The Redskins were staying in third and mid, third and short for a majority of the game and left a lot of options open; the Bears were stuck in "run, run/screen, pray for Jay to make a play" mode.
- Jordan Reed was nigh unstoppable, especially against a Bears' defense that really has no matchup for him. The Redskins devoted enough plays to running the ball at a somewhat-but-not-really productive level (33 rushes, 99 yards - 3.0 YPC), at least enough the Bears had to watch it, and Reed just made plays all over, converting all nine of his targets for 120 yards and the score. As Reed went, so did the Redskins' offense.
- It would also just be great if, you know, when a Bear tackled a player, they would actually be tackled. I'm pretty hard pressed to think of a first hit that actually stuck.
- Good on Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Mitch Unrein for hitting the sack column this week, but two of those being coverage sacks and Cousins racking up 300 gross passing yards... Yep, lack of pressure is still a thing.
- Kyle Long had a really rough game, but he was key in coming back on the drive immediately following the pick. Long has had some rough spots at tackle, and getting beat by Murphy and Ryan Kerrigan is definitely a mark on that record. The Kerrigan sack, Cutler floated into like a beginning Starcraft player unsure what his first major build should be.
(... Okay, that one was a stretch, but work with me here.)
In all seriousness, Long got beat, and Cutler just didn't feel the pressure. Would have been a really quick pressure-and-unload though. The Terrance Knighton sack, Grasu simply had no chance against a very large, angry, hungry man. There were problems all up and down the line in both phases.
- I was a little worried Jeffery would again have a high amount of targets and low catch rate, but 6 of 9 for 107 yards and a touchdown is very solid. What isn't solid is Jeremy Langford with 7 targets and catching only 3 of them, and especially on a day where Langford outsnaps Forte.
- The more Sherrick McManis sees time inside, the less inclined I am to want to watch McManis play inside. I'd rather he be outside, where he at least had a flash or two, but I'd also rather see him on specials only.
- This Robbie Gould thing has taken a pretty sudden dive, hasn't it. At least Pat O'Donnell had a decent game, out-averaging Tress Way and sticking 3 in the 20 versus Way's one. Way still outslugged Megapunt with a 64 to O'Donnell's 54.
- I understand Fox's lack of timeout helped get the Bears their touchdown with little time left in the half, and I'll admit, the Bears probably aren't going for it without the toss to Thompson, but dialing up the toss to the speedster downfield is at least taking a shot and converting on it. And maybe a shot like that influenced the Bears to not play for the sticks and a closer field goal, and instead take two shots at the end zone. I like playing aggressive, but that wasn't a situation to take another shot and leave a bit less than two minutes on the field if the touchdown's converted. Move the sticks, and you have time for more shots.
Bottom line, it was another three-phase loss, where every phase had something to say in just how the team lost the game. And this one ensures the best the Bears can do is .500 - a mark they haven't sniffed since 0-0. They're still playing to eclipse last year's win total, and they'll take a shot at the Vikings in Minnesota next week to get it.
What are your thoughts on yesterday's loss?