The Chicago Bears ended their 14-game losing streak with a victory on Thursday night, defeating the Commanders in Washington 40-20. The win gives Chicago their first win of the 2023 season, putting them at 1-4 on the year.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the Bears’ first win of the year.
Justin Fields to DJ Moore was a phenomenal connection for the Bears on Thursday.
Moore absolutely killed it against Washington, putting up a career-high 230 yards and 3 touchdowns on 8 catches. He consistently found himself open for Fields to throw him the ball, and on the rare instance where he wasn’t open, there was still a good chance he would come down with the ball, as his contested touchdown in the second quarter would indicate. He looked even better than the WR1 Chicago expected him to be when they included him in the trade down from No. 1.
Fields deserves a lot of credit for how he played, too. A 15-for-29 stat line isn’t any bit sexy on the surface, but when you consider he threw for 282 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions, that completion percentage becomes way more tolerable. He looked decisive with the ball, scanning the field with confidence and finding the open man regularly. His accuracy looked solid for the most part, but it was his quarterback instinct that really stood out.
When a receiver was open, Fields found him. When nobody was open, he knew when to throw the ball away or when to find the checkdown. His high incompletion percentage came down to overthrows or throwing the ball away — it had little to do with his decision-making at all, which is a step in the right direction.
On those 15 completions, Moore was one of just three Bears to catch passes. Cole Kmet caught 5 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown, while Robert Tonyan had 2 catches for 10 yards.
Chicago dealt with a handful of injuries on both sides of the ball, but the running back position was plagued especially. Khalil Herbert hurt his ankle, Roschon Johnson got a concussion, and Travis Homer injured his hamstring. Fullback Khari Blasingame picked up a heavier workload out of the backfield, but when the Bears’ backs were healthy, the run game was very effective. Herbert had 10 carries for 76 yards, including a 34-yard gain. Johnson ran for 19 yards on his 3 carries before getting hurt, while Fields contributed 57 rushing yards on 11 carries of his own.
The offensive line performance was up-and-down, as Fields got sacked 3 times and hit 9 times. However, the run blocking was quite strong, and there were some flashes of brilliance in pass protection against a strong Commanders defensive line. It’ll be a matter of consistency with them, but this was a step in the right direction for the hog-mollies up front.
Any time you can put up 40 points, it’s a game worth celebrating. The Bears’ offense looked like a well-oiled machine on Thursday, and they should be proud of how things turned out.
Wait, the Bears have a pass rush?
After an incredibly slow start to the season, Chicago’s defense was able to pick it up in terms of quarterback pressure and creating backfield penetration. They sacked Sam Howell 5 times and hit him 11 times, marking what was easily a season-high tally in both metrics. Along the defensive line, all of Yannick Ngakoue, DeMarcus Walker and Rasheem Green were credited with sacks. T.J. Edwards helped out with a sack of his own, as did Greg Stroman, who also contributed an interception.
Up front, the likes of Walker, Justin Jones and Gervon Dexter each had two quarterback hits. Jones and Dexter both had pass deflections at the line of scrimmage, as well. With the pass-heavy approach the Commanders took in the second half, it was up to the linebackers and defensive backs to clean up a lot of tackles in space, but the defensive line was able to help out with pressure when needed.
T.J. Edwards led the Bears with 10 tackles, with Tyrique Stevenson and Tremaine Edmunds not too far behind with 9 each. Tackling consistency proved to be hit or miss for Chicago’s defense on Thursday, but it clearly worked out enough due to their pressure up front and two forced turnovers. Terell Smith, in particular, stood out at cornerback, as the physical rookie had 6 tackles and a forced fumble.
Chicago’s passive coverage hurt them a bit in the second half, as it allowed Washington to turn what was previously a 27-3 lead into a 30-20 one. That said, they cleaned things later up in the fourth quarter, and their “bend, but don’t break” approach finally worked to perfection in the first half. There’s still some work to be done in terms of downhill playing speed and tackling consistency in the secondary, but there was plenty to be encouraged by from the Bears’ defense.
Three and out
3. I’m not crowning Justin Fields as “the guy” just yet, but this game was absolutely huge for him.
There’s still a lot of season left to play, but Fields’ last two games indicate he may have turned a corner after a slow start to Year 3. He’s looked decisive and confident, and while those have been against bad secondaries, his progress is obvious and deserves to be commended. If he keeps up playing like this, there are going to be a lot fewer conversations about the Bears drafting a quarterback early in 2024.
2. The biggest winner from Thursday’s win? Matt Eberflus.
That’s not because he was particularly amazing as a defensive play-caller, but rather he picked up his first win in nearly an entire calendar year. One would be fair to anticipate a Thursday night game as an opportunity to move on from a disappointing head coach, seeing as though the Bears have a mini-bye to work with now. After a win which saw them put up 40 points, though, that won’t be the case. At least for the time being, Eberflus remains the guy in charge.
1. When you get the chance today, pull up some Dick Butkus highlights.
Enjoy the physicality, the tenacity and the athletic prowess on full display. Few have ever done it as well as Butkus did, and his presence will be missed by many. The Bears picked a good day to break their losing streak. Rest in peace, Dick.