With their backs against the wall, the Washington Redskins traveled to Chicago on Christmas eve, and soundly trounced the hometown Bears. Due to the holiday, TLP had given all their employees the day off, which is why this Edition comes to you on Boxing Day. Our first article comes from the pages of The Chicago Tribune:
Turnovers, defensive ineptitude plague Bears in another lopsided loss
By Dan Wiederer – Contact ReporterChicago TribuneDecember 25, 2016, 10:35 AM
By the end of Saturday’s game, the Soldier Field stands had emptied significantly. So, too, it seemed had the Bears‘ energy reserves. In an abysmal performance befitting a woeful season, the Bears were outclassed and outperformed by the visiting Redskins. And so the parting gift for the home crowd on Christmas Eve was a 41-21 loss, the team’s 12th this year and the latest reminder of how flawed this Bears group remains.
Bad news: Receivers Josh Bellamy, Alshon Jeffery and Cameron Meredith, running back Jordan Howard and left tackle Charles Leno all made tackles Saturday. That’s never a good sign with the offense losing the ball over and over and over again. QuarterbackMatt Barkley threw five interceptions as the Bears lost the turnover battle for the 10th time this season.
But equally disappointing, the defense had few if any answers to slow the Redskins. A week after allowing 451 total yards to the Packers, the Bears were gashed for 478 more yards Saturday, allowing 7.5 yards per play.
Within that debacle, the Redskins converted eight of their 13 third-down attempts. Four of those eight conversions came in situations in which the Redskins faced third-and-6 or longer.
“Third-and-long, we’ve got to be way better than that,” inside linebacker Jerrell Freemansaid. “Come on, man. We’ve got to be. When you get them in third-and-long, you have to get the ball back. You have to understand situations, know the route combinations, know what they can give you and what they can hurt you with. And then go make a play.”
The Redskins’ first touchdown came on third-and-9, a 17-yard screen pass from Kirk Cousins to Chris Thompson to beat a Bears blitz. Still, Freeman said, it was more than just a well-timed play call against the extra pressure the Bears brought.
“At the same time, on those screens when you’re blitzing, you have to feel that,” he said. “You have to know what can hurt you and what can be coming.”
Good news: The best news for Bears fans is that only one line remains on the schedule. But in the spirit of the holidays, it’s important to acknowledge at least a couple of bright spots from Saturday’s game. So here goes. Both Howard, the rookie running back, and Meredith, the second-year receiver, topped 100 yards against the Redskins. Howard turned his 18 rushes into 119 yards. It was his sixth 100-yard rushing game this season and pushed him to 1,178 yards for the season, just 60 short of Matt Forte’s franchise rookie rushing record. Meredith’s nine catches went for a career-best 135 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown grab late in the first half.
Barkley has appreciated Meredith’s development.
“The way he always wants to keep moving after the catch is impressive,” Barkley said. “He has grown in a lot of ways in regards to finding open windows and feeling the defense, not just running his route like it says on paper.”
Extra point: The Bears announced 18,116 unused tickets for Saturday’s game, the latest indication of fan apathy as the team pushes to the end of another last-place season. Over the Bears’ final four home games, the team had a used-ticket average of 44,867. As a reminder, Soldier Field’s capacity is 61,500.
With fewer than 10,000 fans hanging around late into the fourth quarter Saturday, the sight of a mostly empty stadium proved jarring in the home finale.
“The fans expect more,” Meredith said. “We expect more of ourselves. So we can’t blame them.”
Up next: The Bears will make their first visit to U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on New Year’s Day, facing a Vikings team that is sputtering to the finish line. After starting the season 5-0, the Vikings are 7-8 and were eliminated from playoff contention with Saturday’s 38-25 loss in Green Bay.
For whatever it’s worth, the Bears claimed the season’s first meeting against the Vikings, winning 20-10 on Halloween night at Soldier Field.
Final word: “Obviously it’s very disappointing. It’s disappointing to everyone, ourselves included. I feel bad for our fans.” — Bears coach John Fox.
And from the Chicago Sun-Times:
‘Do your job’: Bears’ defense lays another egg in blowout loss
Jerrell Freeman knew how bad it looked.
“The fans deserve better than that,” the Bears linebacker after the defense allowed 478 more yards in a 41-21 loss to the Redskins on Saturday at Soldier Field. “We had a lot of guys fighting, but we have to come out here and execute, whether you’re a vet, a young guy — when you step on that field, we expect you to come out and know your job and do your job.”
Determined to atone for a poor performance against the Packers last week, the Bears instead suffered an embarrassing ignominy — they got worse. After making steady progress throughout the season under coordinator Vic Fangio, they seem to have hit the wall, with Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense consistently keeping them off balance — zigging when the Bears were zagging, throwing screen passes to beat the Bears blitz and out-playing the Bears when they weren’t out-foxing them.
If it wasn’t a perfect play call, then it was Cousins outrunning Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee to the pylon for a nine-yard touchdown that told the story.
“His speed snuck up on me,” McPhee said.
The Redskins seemed to sneak up on the Bears’ defense at every turn Saturday. With Cousins virtually playing catch with his receivers, the Redskins had 270 passing and 208 rushing. Cousins had pass plays of 57, 46, 29, 25 and 21 yards. Reserve running back Mack Brown capped the horrific day for the Bears’ defense with a 61-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds left. The Bears, who allowed five plays of 40 yards or more in their first 13 games, have allowed six plays of 40 yards or more in the last two.
“They didn’t do anything that surprised us, and that’s the reason for the frustration,” Freeman said.
Even in his low-key tone, Freeman couldn’t hide his emotions, laying the blame for this debacle on the defensive players for … just not playing well enough.
“[We’re] shooting ourselves in the foot — that’s the biggest problem,” said Freeman, who led the Bears with nine tackles in his first game since serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. “Knowing situations. Knowing the play. Knowing the defense we’re playing. It’s understanding what’s going on out there. We’ve got to be a better team than that.
“You’ve got to go out there and perform — do your job. Don’t be out there playing not to mess up. Go play ball. We had a good week of practice. Vic had a great game plan. He makes the call, go out there and do what you’re supposed to be doing.
“We’ve got guys counting on each other. [But] we’ve got guys running scot-free. We’ve got to tighten stuff up, regardless of who’s in there. You get on that field, we trust you to make plays.”
Freeman didn’t let himself off the hook. He was burned on a blitz on a third-and-nine from the Bears’ 17 when the Redskins had the perfect play call — a screen pass to running back Chris Thompson, who went into the end zone untouched to give the Redskins a 14-0 lead.
“Yeah [it was a good call], but at the same time, when there’s a screen like that and you’re coming on the blitz, you’ve got to kind of feel it. You’ve got to know what can hurt you and what can be coming.”
About the only redeeming value to this loss was that the Bears’ defense didn’t make excuses.
“Not making plays. Not finishing,” McPhee said when asked what went wrong. “I think I had a good performance last week and I really didn’t do nothing to help my team win or put my team in a position to win. I’ve got to do a better job of winning my individual match-up and making plays for the defense; for the whole team.”