WASHINGTON D.C. — After an off-season of optimism, the Chicago Bears have offered anything but four games into the year, but here are five things they can do to notch their first win of the season tonight against the Washington Commanders.
1. Let Justin Fields run wild
Bears quarterback Justin Fields is fresh off the second best rushing season by a QB in NFL history (1,143 rushing yards in 2022), and is facing the team who has given up the third-most rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks in professional football so far this year (131).
Chicago needs to drop the emphasis they’ve had on developing Fields as a pocket passer, and go all-in on designed runs, RPO’s, roll outs and anything else that highlights the most explosive thing about the Bears offense — Fields’ legs — to help ensure a victory tonight.
2. Generate pressure on Sam Howell without blitzing
This may come as a surprise to some Chicago sports fans, but the Bears are dead last in the NFL in sacks this year (2), just like they were last season (20 in 17 games).
When the pass rush can’t get home, opposing QB’s have time to throw, and when they have time to throw — especially on third down — they have a better chance of converting a first down.
On top of being last in sacks, Chicago is also dead last in the NFL in third down conversion % on defense, allowing opposing offenses to convert on the game’s most crucial down a whopping 58.93% of the time. By comparison, the Commanders are near league average, allowing opposing offenses to convert on third down 39.62% of the time, good for 17th in the NFL.
Some combination of Yannick Ngakoue, DeMarcus Walker, Dominique Robinson, Rasheem Green, Justin Jones and Andrew Billings need to find a way to get home on Howell, or at least make him uncomfortable, while letting their linebackers drop in coverage.
Good news for the Bears here is that the Commanders offensive line has allowed Sam Howell to be sacked 24 times so far this season, the most sacks given up by a NFL so far in 2023.
3. Luke Getsy carries over passing game success from last week
Last week against the Denver Broncos, Chicago’s passing attack looked the best it has, by far, all year long and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy needs to take the nucleus of that plan and apply it to their offense this week as they make adjustments to try and best attack Washington’s defense.
Fields completed 28 of 35 passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns, the two latter stats being career highs for him. At one point in the game, Fields completed 16 straight passes — a Bears franchise record.
If Getsy can recreate the variety of plays called and routes run by receivers in the passing game this week like he did last week against the Broncos, it should put Fields in a position to make plays downfield with his arm, in tandem with his ability to run the ball.
4. Protect Justin Fields
Easier said than done, but Chicago needs to create clean pockets for Fields to operate from, and lanes for him to run through.
One of the Commanders’ penchants on defense has been their ability to get after the quarterback. Through four games, they are tied for 7th in the NFL in team sacks (13).
Left guard Teven Jenkins was activated off of the Injured List today and is listed as questionable heading into Chicago’s Thursday night matchup against Washington, giving a unit that’s given up the third-most sacks in the NFL this season some much needed reinforcements if he can go.
5. Justin Fields needs to be clutch
On several occasions (going back further than just last week) during the Bears 14-game losing streak, a game was on the line with the ball in Fields’ hands, only for him to commit a costly turnover that all but sealed a Chicago loss.
He needs to elevate his level of play when the game is on the line.
Last week, it was an interception to Denver’s Kareem Jackson with 32 seconds to go, down three. In week two, it was a goal line pick six by Tampa Bay’s Shaq Barrett. Going back to week 13 of last season, Fields threw two picks in the last three minutes of a 28-19 loss to the Green Bay Packers. In week 11 against the Atlanta Falcons, he threw a game-ending interception on third-and-five with 1:13 left when the Bears were down three. In week 10 against the Detroit Lions, he threw a fourth quarter pick six in an eventual 31-30 loss.
Overall, during the Bears 14-game losing streak in the last three minutes of regulation, Fields is 16 for 34 with 143 yards passing, and has thrown one touchdown to six interceptions with a passer rating of 29.
If or when the game comes down to one possession in the fourth quarter, Justin Fields may have to step up — and if that is the case — whether he sinks or swims in the clutch may determine whether Chicago’s losing streak continues.