Entering Monday night’s game, the Chicago Bears were surrounded by question marks. Were they still the team that finished the 2018 campaign with a 12-4 record and an NFC North division crown? The defense was picking up where it left off, but Matt Nagy’s offensive unit was underperforming. The Bears only scored three points in an opening-night loss to the Green Bay Packers, then followed it up with an uninspiring effort against the Denver Broncos in Week 2, winning on a last-second field goal despite quarterback Mitchell Trubisky throwing for a pedestrian 120 yards.
But if the Bears had one thing going for them this week, it was the fact that the Washington Redskins were on the schedule. Washington was torched by both the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys to open the season and was susceptible to giving up big plays in the passing game. Nagy was aware of that, Trubisky knew it as well, and the Bears took full advantage to pick up a dominant 31-15 victory in a primetime spot.
Chicago’s defense, as it so often does, set the tone early. On the Redskins’ first possession, Bears safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix—who spent nine games with Washington last season after being traded by the Packers—picked off Case Keenum and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown. It was Keenum’s second pass attempt of the game and his first turnover of the season.
But it wouldn’t stop there. The onslaught was just beginning.
With the score 7-0, Washington kicker Dustin Hopkins missed a 43-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter following a 12-play drive. All of the air was immediately sucked out of FedEx Field. The Bears responded by driving it down the Redskins’ throats and scoring a touchdown in 11 plays. Then on Washington’s ensuing possession, Keenum found rookie wideout Terry McLaurin on a first down slant in what appeared to give the team a glimmer of hope. But it was called back for an illegal shift before the snap. One play later, All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack sped around the edge and forced a fumble deep in Redskins territory, which led to a recovery by Akiem Hicks at Washington’s 11-yard line. The Bears again made the Redskins pay, scoring a touchdown in two plays.
Keenum threw the second of his three interceptions on Washington's following possession—this time Kyle Fuller was the beneficiary. Chicago’s offense found the end zone once again, as Taylor Gabriel beat Josh Norman down the right sideline and Trubisky hit him in stride for a 37-yard toe-tap touchdown. Gabriel had arguably the best game of his NFL career, catching six passes for 75 yards and three touchdowns, all in the second quarter. He became the first Bears player since Gale Sayers in 1965 to score three TDs in one quarter. He could have possibly added to that total but left the game due to a concussion.
The defense got the party started, but the offense found a rhythm that could carry over into the rest of the season. Trubisky finished an efficient 25-of-31 for 231 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, and you could see him regaining chemistry with his receiving corps throughout the night.
The Bears jumped out to a commanding 28-0 lead and held off a late-game surge by the Redskins to improve to 2-1 on the season. Washington is now 1-9 on Monday Night Football under head coach Jay Gruden, whose seat is getting hotter and hotter with every loss. At 0-3—the worst record in the NFC—the Dwayne Haskins chants are starting to heat up from the Redskins fanbase, but Gruden plans to stick with Keenum as the team’s starting quarterback for now.
One bright spot on Washington’s roster this season has been McLaurin, who finished with six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown, becoming the first player in NFL history with five or more receptions and a touchdown in each of his team’s first three games.
As for the Bears, this game gives them a boost of confidence on both sides of the ball. Mack and the vaunted defensive group finished the night with five takeaways, after coming into the game with just one on the season. And Trubisky’s critics have to back off for at least this week, as the offense found a way to get on track ahead of a Week 4 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
If their offense can continue to feed off of the defense’s energy the way it did against Washington, the Bears remain a difficult team to beat and one that could be back in the playoff mix at season’s end.
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1. Bruce Arians wants you to know the Buccaneers' struggling kicker "ain't goin' anywhere."
2. Cam Newton is out. Again.
3. Antonio Brown is back in school.
4. Jamal Agnew scored 2019's first touchdown off of a kickoff return. The Athletic's Chris Burke tells us how it happened.
5. A reshuffled offensive line worked for the Texans on Sunday. So they're sticking with it.
That's why Kyle Allen looked so familiar.
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