On a chilly day at Soldier Field, the Redskins found themselves on the road on short rest for the second time this month. In spite of the circumstances, Washington bounced back from their worst offensive performance of the year on Monday Night, defeating the Chicago Bears 41-21 in the penultimate matchup of the 2016 regular season.
The victory elevated the Redskins to 8-6-1, guaranteeing them consecutive non-losing seasons for the first time since 2007-08, and has Washington primed for a week 17 showdown against the Giants that could determine their playoff fate.
The teams traded punts on their opening drives to start the ballgame before the Redskins moved 8 plays and 65 yards before Chris Thompson scampered 7 yards up the middle on a draw play for the score, giving the Redskins a 7-0 advantage.
The drive was aided in no small part by another athletic catch by DeSean Jackson, who contorted his body to come back and make the grab in the red zone.
The Redskins 3rd down defense continued to struggle, even in long yardage situations, allowing the Bears to convert 3rd-and-18 from their own 22-yard line. Chicago moved the ball with relative ease, moving to inside the Redskins’ 5-yard line before the defense held and Connor Barth’s 22-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Preston Smith preserve the lead.
A weaving 56-yard catch and run by DeSean Jackson moved the Redskins quickly into the Bears’ red zone.
Then on 3rd-and-9 from the 17-yard line, a perfectly drawn up screen to Chris Thompson gave him his second touchdown of the day making it 14-0.
With his two first quarter touchdowns, it became the first time in his career that that Chris Thompson scored twice in one game.
On the first play of the second quarter, Barkley threw an ill-advised pass down the middle of the field into triple coverage where Bashaud Breeland picked it off at the one-yard line.
With the pick, Breeland became the first member of the Redskins since Fred Smoot (2001-03) to open a career with multiple interceptions in three straight seasons.
Long receptions of 25 and 46 yards by Pierre Garson quickly had the Redskins in the red zone once again, but this time the Bears defense made a stop, resulting in a Dustin Hopkins 29-yard kick to make it 17-0 with 10:12 left in the first half.
Despite being down by 3 scores, the Bears continued to run the ball, moving into Redskins territory aided by a horse collar tackle penalty on Duke Ihenacho. Cameron Meredith collected a 32-yard pass over the middle to get to the one-yard line before Jeremy Langford punched it, making it 17-7.
Undeterred, the Redskins responded moving 91 yards in 9 plays before a 9-yard read option bootleg by Kirk Cousins resulted in his third rushing touchdown of the year, bringing the score to 24-7 with 100 seconds left in the quarter.
After a Preston Smith sack was wiped out by penalty on Mason Foster, the Bears moved quickly, seeking to respond. A 37-yard catch by Alshon Jeffery moved the Chicago offense to the Redskins’ 21-yard line, before Barkley connected with Cameron Meredith in the back corner of the end zone to make it 24-14 with 34 seconds remaining in the half. The Bears moved 75 yards on just 4 plays for the score.
At the half, Washington controlled time of possession 18:16 to 11:44, and out-gained the Bears 317 to 235.
With little to lose, the Bears converted a fake punt on 4th down near midfield to start the second half on a direct snap to Chris Prosinski. The Redskins defense came up with a big play as Preston Smith hurried Matt Barkley, who threw his second highly inadvisable pass on the day, lofting it up over the middle where it was intercepted by Josh Norman.
Following the turnover, the Redskins sought took advantage of an injury-depleted, and likely worn out Bears defense. They mounted a long drive and did just that: going 14 plays and 55 yards as “dual threat quarterback” Kirk Cousins rugby scrummed his way in from the 1-yard line for his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon to make it 31-14.
With the rushing score, Cousins tied Sammy Baugh for 3rd all-time in franchise history for QBs with 9 rushing touchdowns, and became the first quarterback in the NFL this season to record two touchdowns on the ground in a single game.
On the first play on the ensuing Bears drive, a tip drill ball off the hands of Josh Norman popped right to Breeland for his second interception of the game, setting up the Washington offense on the 28-yard line. The Bears defense forced the Redskins into a 4th and short, the pressure resulted a slight over-throw by Cousins intended for a wide-open Vernon Davis in the endzone for a turnover on downs.
Just three plays into the 4th quarter, Will Blackmon hauled in another Barkley overthrow, returning the interception 79 yards the Chicago 9-yard line. The interception was the fourth of the day for Barkley, and the first time the Redskins have recorded four interceptions in a game since DeAngelo Hall did it single-handedly against the Bears in 2010.
The Redskins were unable to find the endzone in three tries, instead settling for a 20-yard field goal from Hopkins to push the lead to 20, 34-14. With the kick, Hopkins surpassed Chip Lohmiller into 4th place on single season scoring list (133 points), and because it’s a blowout and you’re probably not reading by this point, gives me the excuse to post this:
Another drive, another Barkley interception, this time courtesy of Josh Norman, his second of the day, at the goal line intended for Alshon Jeffery. With the interception it marked the first time the Redskins defense turned in five picks in a game since Nov. 29, 1992 against the Phoenix Cardinals.
DeAngelo Hall approves:
Hell im at home with the fam and I almost caught an INT too. @Redskins keep balling fellas— OG aka CAPTAIN 23 (@DeAngeloHall23) December 24, 2016
The Bears would add another score to Deonte Thompson after the game already was well in hand, Mack Brown responded with a 61-yard touchdown run with under a minute left to go and the Redskins left Soldier Field with a tape-to-tape victory, 41-21.
Kirk Cousins finished 18-of-29 for 270 yards with 1 passing touchdown and no interceptions. On the day, he became the seventh player to reach 1,500 career attempts with the Redskins. In addition, he became sixth player in team history with 1,000 career completions while breaking his own team record for completions in a single season (379 in 2015). In the process, he became the second quarterback in NFL history w/ 4,000+ passing yards & 4+ rushing TDs in consecutive seasons. With his touchdown pass in the first half, it was his 18th consecutive road game throwing for a score, tying Joe Theismann for the longest streak of road games with a passing touchdown (18 from 1982-85).
For the second week in a row, DeSean Jackson was the leading receiver with 5 grabs for 114 yards, while Pierre Garcon added 94 yards on 4 receptions.
Jackson recorded his 12th 100-yard receiving game with the Redskins to tie Michael Westbrook (12) for seventh-most in team history, and also tied a team record by recording three consecutive 100-yard games for the first time in his career.
Garcon extended his streak of consecutive regular season games played with a reception to 101, the fifth longest active streak in the NFL (Larry Fitzgerald, 193; Brandon Marshall, 158; Steve Smith Sr., 141; Michael Crabtree, 109). Seventy-two of the games in Garçon’s streak have come with Washington,the third-longest streak by a member of the Redskins since the 1970 merger.
After recording 11 attempts for 18 yards on Monday, the run game bounced back as Rob Kelley recorded 19 rushes for 76 yards, Mack Brown picked up his first career touchdown en route to an 8 rush/82 yard day, while Chris Thompson added 3 carries for 20 yards and both receiving and rushing touchdowns.
The story of the day on defense was the five interceptions: two apiece by Norman and Breeland, and one by Will Blackmon. Preston Smith had a huge day, blocking a field goal, recording a sack (in addition to having one taken away by a penalty), adding a QB hit on an interception, and QB pressure on 3rd down that forced a drive to stall to a field goal.
Matt Barkley finished a miserable day 24/40, 232 yards with 2 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. His leading receiver was Cameron Meredith who recorded 9 catches for 135 yards and a touchdown, while Alshon Jeffery hauled in 5 catches for 92 yards. Rookie tailback Jordan Howard rushed 18 times for 119 yards
With the win, the Redskins improved 4-3-1 on the road this season and gave Washington four road wins in a season for the first time since 2012, and add to the Redskins' current six-game winning streak against the Bears, their longest against any opponent.
While the Redskins still need help in order to secure a postseason berth, they were able to take care of business on the road in a game they both needed to, and were expected to win. Despite their ups and downs this season, Washington has put themselves in position to earn a spot in the postseason with a little bit of help and a win next week against a division rival.