How the Bears and Redskins match up
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter October 19, 2013 1:50AM
RICK MORRISSEY: Bears, 35-31
RICK TELANDER: Bears, 24-20
DAN McGRATH: Redskins, 31-30
HUB ARKUSH: Bears, 41-34
ADAM L. JAHNS: Bears, 31-24
MARK POTASH: Bears, 27-24
PATRICK FINLEY: Bears, 30-27
Updated: October 19, 2013 1:57AM
Time: Noon Sunday at FedEx Field.
Line: Pick ’em.
TV: Fox-32 (Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa).
Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM.
WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL
ON THE GROUND
Playing on the road and for the first time in 10 days, the Bears likely will try to establish a running game to get their offensive feet on the ground against a Redskins defense ranked 27th in the NFL against the run (123 ypg). It’s no sure thing, though. Matt Forte was held to 67 yards on 19 carries against a Giants defense that also ranked 27th against the run. Forte (100-442, three TDs) is ninth in the NFL in rushing, but he’s averaging only 16.7 carries per game. Of the top 12 rushers in the NFL, he’s the only one without a 100-yard game. The Redsins held the Cowboys to 48 yards on 19 carries last week.
IN THE AIR
The last time he faced the Redskins, Jay Cutler threw four interceptions, all of them to DeAngelo Hall, in a 17-14 loss at Soldier Field in 2010. But Cutler is a better quarterback today. His 95.2 rating is a career best after six games, and he has thrown at least one TD pass in his last 12 games. The Redskins rank 24th in pass defense (272 ypg), but they held Tony Romo, who was averaging 305 ypg, to 170 last week. Pass protection shouldn’t be an issue. The Bears will be facing a 3-4 defense for the third time in five games. The Redskins have 16 sacks, but seven came in their lone victory against the Raiders.
Bears rookie right tackle Jordan Mills has held his own in his first six games (no sacks allowed), but he has had a negative grade in his last five (with 24 hurries allowed), according to Pro Football Focus. He’ll be challenged by Redskins sack leader Ryan Kerrigan, who is listed as a linebacker but is primarily a pass-rushing defensive end from the left side.
WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL
ON THE GROUND
Ten days after they were gashed for 106 yards by the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs, the Bears face a bigger challenge in 5-9, 219-pound Alfred Morris, who rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 TDs as a rookie in 2012. Morris (72-377, three TDs) is averaging 5.5 ypc in his last five games. The Bears are 12th in the NFL against the run and expect to get a boost from defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who has missed the last two games with a sprained toe. Quarterback Robert Griffin III hasn’t been the running threat he was last season, when he gained 815 yards on the ground. Griffin has 127 yards on 27 carries this season.
IN THE AIR
The Redskins’ disappointing 1-4 start can be tied directly to a downturn in quarterback Robert Griffin III’s production. With his ability to run slowed by a knee injury, he already has thrown as many interceptions this season (five) as he did all of last season. His passer rating is down from 102.4 in 2012 to 80.4 this season. Pierre Garcon (35-408, two TDs) has been his No. 1 target, but Santana Moss (17-214, one TD) hasn’t been the big-play threat he once was. The Bears are 23rd in the NFL in pass defense but are second in takeaways with 17. Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman is expected to play.
Bears rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic will make his first NFL start in place of injured D.J. Williams. Bostic is a big-hitting playmaker, but he’s new to the cover-2 and will be most susceptible in pass coverage. The Redskins need running back Alfred Morris to take the pressure off Robert Griffin III, who has thrown 39 or more passes in their four losses.
Bears special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis might be on the spot this week. Not only is Dave Toub, his predecessor with the Bears, having success with the Chiefs, but the Cowboys, DeCamillis’ old team, lead the NFL in kickoff and punt returns after a big day against the Redskins last week. Dwayne Harris returned a punt 86 yards for a TD and returned a kickoff 90 yards to set up another TD to spark the Cowboys’ 31-16 victory. DeCamillis’ Bears aren’t losing games, but they’re not winning them, either. The Bears are fourth in the NFL in kickoff returns (27.7 ypr) and 24th in punt returns (5.8). Devin Hester is due.
The Bears’ defense is ranked 20th in the NFL in yards allowed, 32nd in passing yards allowed per play and 31st in sacks per play, but it is 10th in the Aikman Efficiency Ratings, 12th against the run and ninth in rushing yards allowed per carry. Their 17 takeaways — second in the NFL behind the Chiefs’ 18 — have made up for lapses elsewhere, but the eye test reveals a defense that is regressing. Rookie linebacker Jon Bostic, who will be making his first NFL start, is an intriguing factor in the equation. He might struggle early, but he eventually might make the defense better. The question is: How soon before that happens?