Five Storylines: Redskins vs. Bears
After being sunk by miscues in a loss to the Cowboys, the Redskins host the Bears for the first time in six years on Sunday. Five storylines are worth following.
BY ZAC BOYER
1. How much will Robert Griffin III run?
After gaining just 72 yards on the ground in his first four games, Robert Griffin III had nine carries for 77 yards in a loss to the Cowboys a week ago. More important than the numbers, though, is that by showing he can run, the Redskins’ offense will finally add that additional dimension that aided it greatly last season. The Bears, in theory, will have to account for Griffin’s legs, giving the zone-read look greater credibility and allowing more flexibility with the play-calling.
2. Is this the game the Redskins’ running backs finally break through?
Part of Alfred Morris’ success last season, when he finished second in the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, was a product of Griffin’s threat to run. Morris’ carries are down overall compared to the same point last season, and he’s yet to carry the ball more than 20 times in a game. Chicago enters with the 12th-ranked run defense, but injuries on the defensive line and at linebacker could lead to Morris, and even backup Roy Helu, making their mark.
3. What can be done to keep Brandon Marshall in check?
One of the better vertical threats in the league, Brandon Marshall has caught 40 passes 465 yards and five touchdowns this season – all team highs. Still, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver has complained about his lack of touches, which quarterback Jay Cutler rectified last week in a victory over the New York Giants by throwing him the ball 11 times. Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall shut down Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant last week and has had success against Cutler in the past, including a four-interception game in 2010, and he’ll be responsible at times for containing Marshall.
4. Will the special teams be any better?
A disastrous performance against the Cowboys a week ago was a large reason why the Redskins lost on the road. The units have been under the microscope this week, with players professing a greater need to trust first-year coordinator Keith Burns’ schemes and devote additional time to preparation. The punt and kickoff returns, though, won’t have it easy – though Devin Hester is showing his age in his eighth season, he’s one of the league’s more decorated return specialists and has returned a kickoff 80 yards already this season.
5. Can the Redskins score when they enter the red zone?
The Redskins ventured past the Cowboys’ 20-yard line three times a week ago, but all three times, they were forced to settle for a field goal. (A fourth opportunity in the fourth quarter was squandered when Griffin threw an interception from the Cowboys’ 23-yard line.) On the season, their red zone efficiency is at 50 percent, ranking tied for 17th. The restricted area has cramped the Redskins’ offense, which hasn’t had the benefit of a strong running game to move the chains. If the team wants to be able to win games, it can’t settle for just a field goal from such close range.