It goes without saying that the Commanders will not face a team as inept as the Chicago Bears inside the 20-yard line every week; but regardless, the bend but don’t break mentality won out. The Commanders survived their week six against the Chicago Bears by holding them scoreless on three red zone trips, the last of which came in the game’s final seconds. Throughout the game, Washington’s defense had their ups-and-downs against the Bears. While the key takeaway should be how Washington could hold the Bears to seven points, the Commanders showed a couple of areas to fix on tape. With the Green Bay Packers coming into town this week, Aaron Rodgers and company are looking to bounce back from an unusual two-game losing streak.
Here are my takeaways from the Commanders performance against Justin Fields and the Bears offense.
Individual standouts vs. called run plays
On the fourth defensive play of the game, it is 2nd and 9 for Chicago’s offense. Safety Kam Curl (aligned over the LT) showcases good awareness and mental processing, fighting to gain and maintain outside leverage on a block from a Bears receiver. Ultimately, Kurl won this rep, forced the run back inside, and allowed his teammates on the backside of the play to pursue and limit the gain to three yards. A defensive holding on Jonathan Allen created a new set of downs for Chicago, but the play was made despite holding with good awareness from Kurl and good pursuit by the defense.
On the 13th play of the game, Chicago faces a 2nd and 5. Rachad Wildgoose displays good competitiveness making a critical play in the box. Wildgoose’s tackle keeps the rush to two-yards and prevents what could’ve been a significant gain for the Bears’ offense as Commanders linemen Daron Payne was driven off of the ball by a successful combination block, and Holcomb was occupied by an offensive lineman on 2nd level.
On the 42nd play of the game, Chicago faced a 1st and 10. The Bears fullback is responsible for a kick-out block on 5-tech Defensive end Efe Obada (to the left of Bears LT). Obada displays good awareness post-snap recognizing the blocking scheme and what the fullback is trying to do. With good upper-body play strength, he defeats the block, stalemates the fullback, and makes the tackle on the ball carrier. This 3-yard gain could’ve been much more if Obada could not make the tackle because Jamin Davis attempted to beat the Bears’ climbing OL with speed which essentially displaced him out of a gap on the 2nd level.
On the 49th play of the game, Chicago faces a 2nd and 9. Linebacker Jamin Davis explodes at the snap and, with good lateral quickness, easily sheds and defeats the climbing offensive lineman and quickly closes in on the running back. While Davis could not finish the tackle, his pursuit and closing speed allowed the defense to rally and limit Khalil Herbert to one yard.
Commanders ability pressure mixed with Justin Fields indecision = Win for Washington
On the 7th play of the game, the Bears are facing a 3rd and 19. Kam Curl appears to be a spy in Cover 1 man call. Curl’s presence and Jonathan Allen’s bull rush eliminate Field’s option to escape the pocket and scramble. Furthermore, the man coverage calls for Cole Holcomb to stick on the running back. The discipline at the line of scrimmage between Curl and Holcomb creates a good coverage sack, and while Fields should have thrown the football into the dirt, he ultimately runs into the hands of Casey Toohill and Daron Payne for a sack.
On the 33rd play of the game, Chicago faces a 1st and 10. Cornerback Benjamin St-Juste displays very good awareness and zone eyes in this Cover 3 call to find and carry with Chicago’s crosser. Kendall Fuller is beaten on a deep Dig route on the Offensive left. Kendall Fuller had his blind spot manipulated and stumbled at the breakpoint. The Dig was available to Fields if he committed to the throw; however, Fields didn’t trust himself to make the throw, along with an influence by Jonathan Allen, who got some pressure on a late stunt.
On the 40th play of the game, the Bears are facing a 2nd and 8. Montez Sweat provided very pressure versus the left tackle. The pressure eliminates the throw and forces conflict for Fields reading the coverage, as the quarterback missed the play-side curl route in the Commanders Cover 4 zone void. Fields ultimately moved off his read and chose the boundary side’s Go ball.
Play-Action created several easy 2nd-level throw windows
On the 8th play of the game, Chicago faces a 1st and 10. Holcomb sucked into Play-Action. The tight end was open immediately, and while Fields sees it late, he ultimately makes the throw. Additionally, looking at cornerback Kendall Fuller on the third level, he is taking a vertical route (Corner-Post) deep. Safety Bobby McCain gives big help to Fuller, covering a lot of ground from the opposite side of the field to try and get over top of the receiver.
On the 12th play of the game, Chicago faces a 1st and 10. Linebacker Cole Holcomb was sucked into the play-action. Because Washington did not have any linebackers with enough depth due to the play-action, the 2nd-level wide open, but the defense was fortunate that Chicago had nobody to occupy the middle of the field.
On the 45th play of the game, the Bears are facing a 1st and 10. This is a good example of post-snap communication. However, Safety Darrick Forrest appears late in recognizing the crosser coming his way. The Bears’ boot-action got the defense flowing to the Offensive right and allowed a 2nd-level crosser to get behind the linebackers. In this Cover 3 call, Bobby McCain, Kendall Fuller, and Darrick Forrest’s assignments all change, and it looks like Forrest is supposed to hit the flats but is late in seeing the crosser.
Bears Mesh Concept challenges Commanders defensive rules
Washington handled the trips side well between Wildgoose and BSJ, but looking at McCain and Fuller, they aren't on the same page on how to handle crossers near the MOF. Kendall tries to pass off, McCain sticks on Kmet, Pettis left uncovered. Big play was avoided. pic.twitter.com/eJo2tjUghd— Jamual (@LetMualTellit) October 17, 2022
Conclusion: It is undoubtedly true that Washington’s defense made several plays, individually and as a unit, throughout the game. However, it is also true that not many good quarterbacks or offenses will grant the Commanders the blessings they received this past Thursday. It is good to see Washington’s edge rushers dominate the Bears’ tight ends, wide receivers, and rookie left tackles to create pressure and get sacks. However, the Commanders defensive pressure will need to take another step up against the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers this week and get home against their offensive lineman. Just two (Allen and Sweat’s) of Washington’s five sacks against the Bears were true rush wins against Chicago’s offensive line.
As a secondary, the unit still faces challenges with its communication and will continue to get tested weekly with bunch looks and mesh concepts. In turn, with the team unable to be on the same page on what appeared to be a form of Chicago’s mesh concept, I expect the Green Bay Packers to test the Commanders communication in its secondary early and often.
The run defense is better than the numbers suggested against Chicago. Sure, you cannot ignore the several missed tackles from the Commanders defenders on all three levels of the defense, but with six-game sample size, I would bet that the Bears outing was the outlier. Overall, the Commanders defense has improved weekly against the run on a yards-per-carry basis. This upcoming week they will have another good test against Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillion, but the play-action will be of the utmost importance against one of the best play-action quarterbacks in the NFL.