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Chicago Bears versus the Washington Redskins: Five Keys to the Game

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 18: of the Chicago Bears of the Washington Redskins during a preseason game at Soldier Field on August 18, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Redskins 33-31. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

By Bryan Dietzler

The Bears were still sore from a loss they suffered at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers the week before and many thought that they would take the opportunity to play what many considered to be a weaker team in the Redskins and win.  After all Washington had not won on the road all year and the Bears appeared to be a better team and were playing at home. It was not meant to be however as the Bears lost to the Redskins at home this Sunday 24-21.  It was a game full of mistakes by the Bears and they just couldn’t capitalize on opportunities that were given to them in this game to come through with a win.

After their win against the Packers on Thanksgiving night, it was thought that the Bears might be able to keep the momentum they gained from that win going and at least attempt to get into the playoffs.  It was just not meant to be as they dropped their game against the 49ers in resounding fashion in overtime.  This Sunday’s game once again saw slow starts by the offense and a lack of prowess to stop long drives by the defense leading to a Bears loss.  Couple that with the fact that their kicker failed to convert an important field goal again for the second straight week to give the Bears a chance to win and things aren’t looking too good in Chicago.

The following is a look at five keys to the Bears game that show how they either did well in the game or failed.  There are some specific individuals discussed as well as some units that either performed well or didn’t do that well in the game.  Finally, there is an overall synopsis of some of the struggles that the Bears had in the game and what might happen next week.

Gould Amiss-For the second straight week kicker Robbie Gould missed a critical field goal this time one that would have tied the game for the Bears and most likely have sent it into overtime.  Gould blames himself for the failed kick (and the others he had in the 49ers game) and it’s easy to say that something is not right with Gould.  The Bears could have won the 49ers game had he made that kick and could have at least had a chance to win the Redskins game had he been accurate.  The Bears can’t afford too much more of this and even though they stand behind their kicker if this continues it may be time for a change in the offseason.

Pass Pressure-The Bears pass pressure was hot in the first half of the game but simmered down quite a bit in the second half as they didn’t reach quarterback Kirk Cousins for a sack in the latter stages of the game.  The pass pressure in the first half kept the Redskins from continuing long drives and scoring a lot of points, which the Redskins were poised to do, but when it mattered, in keeping up the pass pressure, in the second half, the Bears rush was absent.  This could have made a world of difference in this game and could have kept the Redskins from scoring additional points and winning the game.  The Bears need to get consistent pass pressure throughout the whole game rather than just part of it.  That will help them win more games.

Third and Long-The Bears had problems with third and long both on offense and on defense.  On offense, it was often ill-timed penalties that caused the Bears to get into third and very long situations that they had no plays for which to convert them.  This was very evident in the first half as sacks and penalties kept them out of third and manageable situations.  Chicago has to clean that up and get more manageable situations going on third down.  On defense, the Redskins were in third and long situations several times during the game and they were able to convert those third and long situations.  Most of those conversions were made by tight end Jordan Reed and the Bears had no answer for him.  If they could have taken him out of the game, the Redskins may not have been able to convert some of those third downs, which continued drives and eventually led to scores.  Being able to convert those third downs was huge for Washington in this win.

Cutler Off Target-Quarterback Jay Cutler has had some issues with accuracy these last couple of games and this was very much evident in the last drive of the game this Sunday.  While Cutler was on target with the long pass to Alshon Jeffery, he couldn’t connect on any of his other passes to give the Bears a better chance at a shorter field goal or a touchdown to win the game.  Cutler has been off target on some of his longer passes recently and has missed on a few intermediate routes as well.  After being on target for most of the previous few games Cutler’s last two games have less than stellar and he is struggling with accuracy.  Time will tell if this is just a temporary thing or something long term.

Penalties Again-As mentioned previously, the Bears had penalties at critical times in the game and these came at the worst possible moment.  The penalties that they did get took them out of manageable down and distances and forced them into longer second and third down situations where they were unable to convert and get the first down.  Sometimes the penalties wiped out long gains and first downs as well and this really set the Bears back.  A fact, learned on the television broadcast, was that the Bears offensive line has the most penalties for an offensive line unit in the NFL.  Not surprising with the way the Bears have been racking up the penalties this season.

The Bears were bad in each phase in this game and it appears as if they are on a downward trend.  Their defense couldn’t stop the Redskins from scoring after posting a few games where they allowed two touchdowns on average.  The offense just couldn’t move the ball and special teams couldn’t come up with plays when needed.  Overall, it was a poor effort by a team that had shown such solid effort two weeks ago against the Packers.  The Bears arrow has been pointing down for two weeks and may continue to go that way.

Chicago can’t seem to win at home and that’s a problem.  They have done better on the road this year then they have at home which is somewhat odd.  They are assured of a losing record at home this year and haven’t been winning at Soldier Field for quite some time.  They will have to correct that next season.

Chicago will travel to Minnesota next to take on the Vikings in the Vikings house.  Knowing how the Bears play on the road this could be a good game where the Bears step it up and play better.  The last time they played the Vikings they played them tough and almost won the game.  If they are digressing then this isn’t going to be as close as some might think but it’s a division game and the Bears should be up for it.  Even though they are almost completely out of the playoffs these games, do count to the players and the coaching staff.

Look for a full preview of next Sunday’s game coming later this week.

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