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Initial Thoughts: Redskins 17, Bears 14

Here’s what I’m thinking after the Redskins’ 17-14 win over Chicago this afternoon:

The victory is the latest evidence that this is a new Redskins’ era. That’s not exactly news at this point, but you can’t ignore the contrast between how this game turned out and how games like this ended in recent seasons. Instead of losing behind an offense that that turned the ball over three times and struggled to move the ball through the air, the defense made game-changing plays that made up for that. The Redskins simply didn’t compensate for their shortcomings like that in previous years with their bend-but-don’t-break defensive approach.


The win left a lot to be desired, specifically from QB Donovan McNabb and the offense. But the bottom line is that the Redskins beat a first-place team on the road. They’re staying in the playoff race despite some personnel shortcomings and inconsistent play during a transitional period. There’s no guarantee that McNabb will get comfortable and that the offense will click this season, but if that happens, it seems as though the Redskins will be positioned to take advantage of it. They’re 4-1 in the NFC and 2-0 in the division—high marks in two critical tiebreakers.


After showing off the downside of his play-making mentality last week, CB DeAngelo Hall demonstrated the highest point of his upside. Hall gets beat sometimes because he always looks for interceptions—we saw that last week when Indy’s Pierre Garcon burned him for a 57-yard score. But when he reads his keys properly and has a bit of luck on his side, he’s one of the Redskins’ most valuable players.


I’m surprised the Bears never tried to use Hall’s aggressiveness against him with some double moves. Perhaps that had to do with protection problems preventing longer routes from developing. Regardless, Hall got away with some of the risks he took.


RB Ryan Torain helped bail out QB Donovan McNabb with the help of his blockers. Torain averaged 6.0 yards per carry against the NFL’s third-ranked run defense. Washington had success running out of the I-formation with FB Mike Sellers leading the way. Once again, Torain hit the cutbacks hard and was elusive at times. A lot of it had to do with blocking, of course, and there were times when he lost yardage because of breakdowns up front. However, if Torain keeps this up, Clinton Portis might not slide back into the starting spot when (if) he comes back.

Now, about those two fumbles…


The Redskins got a ton of breaks in this game. Not that they have to apologize for that, but it must be mentioned.

You know luck was on their side because they recovered seven of eight fumbles (including TE Chris Cooley’s illegal bat out of bounds). They committed a delay of game penalty that negated an interception return for a touchdown.

And it was clear after the replay that Chicago coach Lovie Smith should have challenged QB Jay Cutler’s fumble at the 1-yard line in the third quarter. Cutler appeared to reach the ball across the plane of the goal line before ILB London Fletcher jarred it loose. Smith had used the Bears’ first challenge on the previous play, and it wasn’t successful, so Chicago would have been out of challenges had Smith thrown the red flag on Cutler’s fumble. Still, it would have been worth seven points. No doubt he regrets it.


QB Donovan McNabb struggled with some decision-making again today. I hope you had a chance to read my story today about his recent difficulties. On his interception that was returned for a touchdown, he should have taken the sack once he was in DB D.J. Moore’s grasp. He appeared to be late on a second-half throw to Santana Moss in the red zone that could have been a touchdown. Instead he bounced the throw. On his second-half interception, he overthrew WR Joey Galloway in double coverage.

I realize the flaws in passer rating, but it’s worth mentioning that McNabb’s 56.8 rating was his lowest since the 2008 playoffs. He’s just not playing well right now.


WR Anthony Armstrong and TE Chris Cooley didn’t help McNabb’s cause in the first quarter with their drops. This offense isn’t good enough to let plays get away because of drops. The lack of concentration and execution cost the team points.


DL Albert Haynesworth directly impacted the outcome for the first time this season. (And, hey, it took only seven games). You figured he’d do well against a Bears offensive line that has played poorly, and he did. He demonstrated his immense power on several plays—his sack comes to mind. The way he pushed his lineman back into QB Jay Cutler is something that few NFL linemen can do. And even though Cutler appeared to get into the end zone on his 1-yard sneak, Haynesworth made the play by leaping over the offensive line and holding Cutler up for Fletcher.

Haynesworth after the game admitted the obvious—that he has been removed from the Redskins’ base 3-4 package—so he’s basically a $30 million pass-rushing specialist. It’s proof that the coaches have given up on forcing him into techniques he doesn’t want to perform, and they’re content trying to salvage anything from him the rest of the way. Today it worked.


The Redskins were smart to punt away from Chicago’s Devin Hester all day because this was the type of game he could have changed in one play. That said, P Hunter Smith could have done a bit better with his placement. He averaged only 33.3 yards and left too much yardage out there on too many punts. I guess it ended up working though. Better to punt 20-some yards out of bounds to the 30 than let Hester take one back.


K Graham Gano continues to be a 50-50 proposition. That’s not exactly what I’d call reliable.


The Redskins pressured QB Jay Cutler a good amount, but I actually expected more. Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter didn’t dominate, especially when they had one-on-one matchups on the outside. It was costly after the first quarter. Cutler settled in a bit and found a rhythm on some shorter routes—the four interceptions not withstanding. Talk about bad decisions by a quarterback. Yikes.


ILB Rocky McIntosh (sack, forced fumble, eight tackles) had his best game of the season, on first glance. He was active and made a couple of game-changing plays. I think the verdict is still out on him as an inside backer in the 3-4, but he made a strong case today.


I’d love to know why the Bears didn’t spread the Redskins’ defense out with three and four wide receivers and run it up the middle like Indianapolis did. Did they respect DL Albert Haynesworth that much? The Redskins’ interior run defense in their sub packages has been weak all season. Every team should try to exploit it, but the Bears didn’t. That’s on the coaches.


RT Jammal Brown did not look good today. His lower body injuries are limiting his athleticism and preventing him from bending his knees well. He was very inconsistent. LT Trent Williams had a better game this week, but he has dropped off from the preseason and the first game against Dallas. I don’t think he’s healthy.

Overall, the offensive line was inconsistent. Each lineman had a few bad plays. When they’re playing well, the Redskins can do a lot of good things—particularly on the ground. So far this season the line has been the key to the Redskins’ offense. When it has blocked well, the run game has opened up—and everything goes from there.

…That’s it for now. Let me know what you’re thinking. Leave a comment, shoot me an email or hit me on Twitter @Rich_Campbell.


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