CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears entered Sunday’s game tied for third in the NFL with 14 takeaways.
Yet the tables seemed to turn on the turnover-happy Bears, who suffered through six second-half giveaways -- including four Jay Cutler interceptions to DeAngelo Hall -- on the way to their second consecutive loss, a bumbling 17-14 effort against the Washington Redskins.
The defense did its part in forcing three Redskins turnovers, but the offense -- plagued by protection issues, a lack of production on the goal line and problems converting third downs -- proved too generous in giving away three interceptions and two fumbles.
Luckily for Chicago, it enters its bye before meeting Buffalo on Nov. 7 in Toronto. The club will need some time to bounce back from this one.
There’s quite a bit to get to from this game. So let’s not waste time.
What it means: It’s no secret the Bears’ schedule significantly stiffens after the bye week with matchups against Miami, Philadelphia, New England and the Jets over four of the next eight weeks. So after dropping back to back games against the Seahawks and Redskins, it’s safe to say the Bears squandered a golden opportunity to maintain their lead over the Packers in the NFC North, and made their potential road to the playoffs much more difficult.
Third-down disaster: Heading into the contest, Cutler led the Bears to 0 for 22 on third-down conversions over his last eight quarters, and the struggles only continued against the Redskins.
The Bears went 0 for 6 on third-down conversions in the first half Sunday, before finally converting their first one with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
OL settles after rough start: Playing for the second consecutive week with a starting line comprised of Olin Kreutz, Chris Williams, Frank Omiyale, Edwin Williams and J’Marcus Webb, the Bears gave up three sacks in the first half -- two to Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo -- before finally settling down in the second half to give Cutler solid protection.
The Bears allowed only one more sack after the three-sack onslaught in the first half. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz played a role in club reducing sack numbers by shortening Cutler’s drops.
Briggs leaves: Linebacker Lance Briggs left the Sunday’s contest on Chicago’s third series, and the club announced he was questionable to return. At halftime, however, the team declared Briggs out for the game.
Still hobbled by a sprained ankle suffered Oct. 10 against the Panthers, Briggs missed last week’s loss to Seattle and alternated with backup Brian Iwuh early on in Sunday’s game. The decision to pull Briggs in the first quarter may have been the smart move for the Bears, who enter their bye before meeting Buffalo in Toronto on Nov. 7. The week off should do some good for Briggs, who is considered one of the leaders on defense.
Moore robbed by delay of game: Bears nickel corner D.J. Moore watched a Redskins’ delay-of-game penalty wipe out what would have been his second touchdown of the day.
Having already returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown off Israel Idonije’s tipped pass in the first half, Moore picked off Donovan McNabb in the third quarter and skipped into the end zone for an 8-yard return. Prior to the snap on that play, however, officials flagged the Redskins for delay of game. The call wiped out what would have been Moore’s second career TD.
Goal-line struggles continue: The Bears entered the game 0 for 9 from an opponent’s 1-yard line. Make that 0 for 10, thanks to a Cutler fumble.
Trying to leap over the top on a sneak, Cutler jumped into the arms of Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, who halted the quarterback’s progress. As Cutler reached to put the ball across the plane, a Redskins defender knocked it out and London Fletcher recovered for the Redskins.
Turf a problem: Judging from some of the conversations in the team’s locker room on Friday, the Bears anticipated problems with the turf at Soldier Field. In fact, several players made it a point to tell equipment managers to make sure they packed plenty of pairs of seven-stud cleats for the matchup with the Washington Redskins.
From the look of things, the Bears needed them. Several offensive and defensive players slipped on the turf that had been pelted by rain earlier in the day. As the game wore on, the turf dried up somewhat and footing improved. The Bears should expect more footing issues as the weather worsens over the next several weeks.
Shorter drops pay off: Martz called for a seven-step drop on a third-and-3 with 5:23 left in the first half. After Cutler threw incomplete to Greg Olsen on the play, Martz shortened up the quarterback’s drops, which helped tremendously.
After the failed conversion attempt, Martz called several three- and five-step drops on the club’s next series, which contributed to Cutler finishing the quarter 7 for 7, including a 9-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Knox with 31 seconds left that gave the Bears a 14-10 halftime lead.
Manning answers challenge: Bears coach Lovie Smith praised the play of Danieal Manning earlier in the week, but said he wanted the safety to make more plays in the passing game. Manning delivered in the third quarter on arguably the club’s most athletic interception of the season.
What’s next: Thankfully for the Bears, nothing. The club enters its bye week, which serves as a good opportunity for players such as offensive lineman Roberto Garza (knee), safety Major Wright (hamstring), and linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle) to regain their health prior to the team’s matchup with Buffalo on Nov. 7. The bye also comes at a good time for all the players dealing with nagging injuries.
Hall of Horrors DeAngelo Hall ties record with 4 INTs as Redskins close out Bears
CHICAGO -- DeAngelo Hall looked like he was playing catch with Jay Cutler. When the Bears quarterback threw the ball, he was there to intercept it -- four times.
It was a performance that left him a little overwhelmed, and in the NFL's record book.
DeAngelo Hall became just the third player since 1970 with four interceptions and one returned for a touchdown in a single game.
PlayerTeamYearDeAngelo HallWSH2010Willie BuchanonGB1978Dick AndersonMIA1973
Hall tied the league mark with his four interceptions, running one back 92 yards for a touchdown, and the Washington Redskins sacked Cutler four times while forcing six turnovers in a 17-14 victory over Chicago on Sunday.
Hall shares the record with 18 others and is the first to pick off four passes since Deltha O'Neal did it with Denver in 2001. The four interceptions give him five on the season, one shy of his career high, and easily eclipsed his previous best of two in a game.
"It's kind of mind blowing," he said. "I had my mom, my aunt, and my two cousins in the stands. The first ball went to my mom, the second ball went to my aunt and the next thing you knew everybody had a ball."
His one-handed interception and TD return late in the third quarter were made for the highlight reel and put the Redskins ahead for good, sending Chicago (4-3) to its third loss in four games.
Washington (4-3), meanwhile, equaled its win total from last season and joined a growing line of teams that has pounded Cutler. He has been sacked 19 times in his last three games, and when he wasn't on his back, he kept finding Hall.
The TD return after his second interception was particularly impressive and stopped a Bears drive at the 13.
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[+] Enlarge Rob Grabowski/US PresswireLovie Smith's Bears needed to stack a few wins against beatable foes such as the Seahawks and Redskins before their schedule gets tougher.
1. The quarterback/receiver relationship is hurting this team: It really doesn't matter who ends up taking the blame for Jay Cutler's disastrous four-interception outing versus Washington. The problem lies in the fact that offensive coordinator Mike Martz is unlikely to stop throwing the football, so if this disconnect between the quarterback and his receivers continues, the Bears are in serious trouble. Cutler has now thrown at least four interceptions three times since arriving in Chicago, hardly the type of results the Bears expected for a player given a lucrative contract extension. Cutler was brought here to win games, not lose them. But to pin everything on the quarterback is unfair, especially since it looked like Devin Hester and Johnny Knox each played roles on a few of Cutler's picks. Again, it doesn't matter who falls on the sword, it only matters if the Bears can correct these problems. We are now seven games into the Martz era, and the Bears look to be heading backwards. Shouldn't they be improving at this juncture of the season rather than regressing?
2. The defense put the Bears in position to win: As usual, the Bears defense did enough to squeeze out a victory. Not only did D.J. Moore score a touchdown on a 54-yard interception return, but the defense forced two other turnovers, and had another Moore score wiped off the scoreboard because of a penalty. What else can they do? Ryan Torain rushed for 125 yards, but Donovan McNabb was sacked twice and finished with a 56.8 quarterback rating. When you consider the ridiculously good field position Washington had for most of the afternoon, the guys on defense have nothing to be ashamed of. All the Bears needed was a decent offensive showing, and they would be sitting at 5-2, not 4-3. What a waste.
3. Pisa Tinoisamoa and Israel Idonije keep showing up: Frankly, I'm surprised to see Tinoisamoa credited with only three tackles in the press box stat book. The linebacker appeared to be all over the field, and he delivered a huge hit on McNabb on a blitz. With Lance Briggs missing last game and most of the Redskins matchup, Tinoisamoa and Brian Iwuh have more than picked up the slack. Pressed into duty again Sunday, Iwuh had two tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble, proving again the Bears have excellent depth at linebacker. After a quiet game against Seattle, Idonije made several impact plays in Week 7, registering a sack and batting down two passes -- one of which was caught by Moore and returned for a touchdown. With Julius Peppers failing to make much of an impact the past two weeks, it's great to see Idonije pick up the slack from the other defensive end position.
4. The Bears wasted two golden opportunities: Here is why the Bears are kicking themselves despite being above .500. They just lost two home games to NFC opponents they should have beaten. I'll argue the Bears have more talent on their roster than Seattle and Washington, but dropped those games solely because of sloppy execution and turnovers. This is the part of the schedule the Bears need to stack wins. After Buffalo on Nov. 7 -- a game the Bears should win -- the remaining schedule includes two dates with the Vikings, road matchups with Green Bay and Miami, and home games against the Jets, Eagles and Patriots. Do you see the problem? If the Bears don't reach the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, look no further than these last two defeats as the reason.
5. Earl Bennett is the Bears most trustworthy receiver: If I'm Cutler, I'm throwing the ball to Bennett in critical spots. Bennett is the most technically sound wideout on the roster. He rarely drops a pass, runs a bad route, is in the wrong spot, and almost never fails to break off a route when Cutler is under pressure. Hester, Knox and Devin Aromashodu have all made their share of plays in 2010, but something about Bennett screams consistency. And the Bears need consistency on offense. There have been way too many up and downs this year. Martz should find a way to get Bennett about 8-10 targets a game, because if does, I have a strong belief that Bear would be a better offense.