CHICAGO – This is one of those season where the NFL schedule and the biggest holiday of the year are right up against each other.
Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday with Christmas Day coming on a Sunday, throwing the league’s schedule into a bit of a flux and teams into hurry-up mode from the week before.
Twelve NFL games have been pushed up to Saturday with just two – Ravens at Steelers along with the Broncos at Chiefs – staying on the traditional Sunday schedule. The Bears are one of the 24 teams who’ll play on Saturday as they host the Redskins for their second-to-last game of the year.
Washington will come to town with a playoff berth still at stake for themselves, but for the Bears it’s only a matter of some better feelings before the holiday. So because of that, is there any chance the team might be a bit distracted with the holiday celebrations just hours away?
John Fox, emphatically, says no.
“It’s important to stay focused, regardless, whether it’s Thanksgiving, guys have tragedies in families, there’s all kinds of things that can take the focus away of your football team,” said Fox. “I think that the fact we’re playing Christmas Eve day, Christmas is the next day, most people are going to be with their families.
“Just like playing at home, you’re with your families after the game. So I think, these guys do the game for a lot of different reasons, some of them are family, spending time with family. It’s a lot easier to see smiles after wins than losses.”
PUSH THE TEMPO
Matt Barkley is proving one thing as a Bears starter: Mistakes are not going to bother him.
After throwing two interceptions against the Titans, the quarterback led a fourth quarter rally that came an endzone catch from a Bears victory.
Last week against the Packers, Barkley was picked off twice in the third quarter as the Bears fell behind by 17 points. Yet the signalcaller led the Bears on three consecutive scoring drives to tie the game at 27.
Once again the Bears came up short of a victory, but Barkley earned praise for his poise after mistakes.
“I think our guys just keep believing,” said Barkley of the strong fourth quarters. “The never count themselves out and to just keep that positive attitude in the huddle and keep that positive attitude on the sideline to know that we’re still in it.”
Maybe Barkley has helped to instill that confidence with his play in the final quarter. Yet its the Bears’ play calling that might have aided the quarterback effectiveness.
In need of quick points, the Bears tempo signficantly increases which has played to Barkley’s strengths. In his four starts this season, the quarterback has thrown for 450 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in the final 15 minutes of the game.
“For whatever reason, I think tempo does help,” said Barkley of the fourth quarter. “It helps us to get into a better rhythm for whatever reason.”
JUST TWO SOUTH CAROLINA KIDS
If you seek a compelling match-up before the start to the holiday, you’d best look to the outside.
Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery and Redskins cornerback Josh Norman go head-to-head at Soldier Field. It’s not only a pairing of two of the better players in the NFL at their positions, but also one of a pair of South Carolina natives.
Jeffery hails from St. Matthews and played college football at South Carolina while Norman, who is from Greenwood, played at Coastal Carolina.
“There’s excitement. But at the same time, I put on my pads just like his,” said Jeffery of the match-up with Norman. “It is what it is. I’m looking forward to the match-up, though.”
“He’s a great player, he’s a competitor, he’s loves to compete. We both love him to compete.”
For Jeffery, it could be his final home game as a member of the Bears since his one-year franchise tag contract expires after the season finale against the Vikings.
STAT OF THE WEEK – 26
The amount of tackles more that middle linebacker Jerrell Freeman has than the nearest defender on the Bears’ active roster.
This is still the case even after Freeman was suspended for four games for a violation of the NFL’s performance enhancing substances policy.
With 91 stops, Freeman has 26 more than defensive back Harold Jones-Quartey, who has 65 so far on the season. Linebacker Danny Trevathan, who is on injured reserve, is the next closest behind Freeman at 66 stops.