Chicago Bears vs. Washington Redskins: Takeaways from Washington's 45-41 Win
The main takeaways from the game concern the emergence of a new young star on offense. There is also the positive impact of featuring the running game.
That impact was made possible by the return of the dual-threat version of quarterback Robert Griffin III. But the list will begin with the youthful skill player who outshined Griffin against the Bears.
Jordan Reed Is the NFL's Next Star "Move" Tight End
Jordan Reed finally delivered the breakout performance he has been threatening to have all season. The rookie showed why he is set to emerge as the league's next star "move" tight end.
Reed hauled in nine passes for 134 yards and his second pro touchdown. He was a consistent matchup nightmare for the Bears' coverage schemes, making both linebackers and safeties look foolish.
The Redskins now have a player athletic and versatile enough to become the feature of their passing game.
Wide Receivers Are Still Letting the Offense Down
It is a good thing Reed is ready to become a major weapon, because Washington's wide receivers can still not be completely trusted.
If they are not failing to get free from press coverage, they are dropping too many passes. Leonard Hankerson, Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss were all guilty of drops against Chicago.
Garcon made amends with some key grabs late on, but this is still a group that isn't doing enough to help their young quarterback.
Relying on the Running Game Makes a Huge Difference to the Offense
The Redskins finally accepted that they are a run-first team. They ran the ball 43 times, and 38 offensive points followed.
Head coach Mike Shanahan has built his offense around success on the ground, and rediscovering that formula was the key to a second win of the season.
In total, Washington rushed for 209 yards and wore out the Bears defense. When this running game is working, the play-action and bootleg passes, as well as the read-option, are all given a better chance of success.
Roy Helu Jr. Proved He Deserves a Bigger Role
Three rushing touchdowns should be enough to prove that Roy Helu Jr. deserves a bigger role in the offense. He showed against Chicago that he can be an invaluable change-of-pace back.
Helu's acceleration and nifty moves stretched the Bears to their breaking point, after workhorse Alfred Morris had battered them with his more physical brand of running.
That complement of styles kept the Bears off balance, ultimately overwhelming them. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan split 30 carries between Helu and Morris, with the latter taking 19, compared to Helu's 11.
It was a good balance that the offense should maintain for the rest of the season.
A Dual-Threat Robert Griffin III Is Vital to the Offense
It was nothing we didn't know before, but it was still impressive to see just how significant a difference a dual-threat Robert Griffin III makes.
When the young quarterback is running as well as passing, the Redskins are a better offense and a better team. His willingness to attack Chicago's defense on designed option runs kept the Bears guessing all game.
Whenever opponents are trapped in the guessing game between run and pass, the whole playbook is suddenly open for the Redskins, and big plays usually follow.
Griffin produced 84 yards on 11 rushes, serving as the catalyst for the success of Morris and Helu. With the ground attack working, Griffin became a more efficient passer.
If his dual-threat skills stay intact, this offense is close to being unstoppable.
The Special Teams Still Need Work
Another week passes, and there are yet more woes for Washington's weak special teams. For the second game in a row, the unit gave up a scoring return.
Granted, Bears ace Devin Hester has certainly embarrassed his share of opposing special teams. But there were also issues in the kicking game.
In particular, punter Sav Rocca made life tough for his defense, especially in the first half. A series of short kicks might have allowed the Bears to build a commanding early lead.
Coordinator Keith Burns still has a lot to work on if he is going to get this group right before Week 8's trip to take on the Denver Broncos.
Jim Haslett's Pressure Packages Are Becoming Very Effective
He has had his critics, not least this writer, but defensive coordinator Jim Haslett knows how to design a sophisticated array of blitzes.
Haslett's pressure schemes kept the Bears O-line in panic mode for much of the game. He used a lot of pre-snap movement to confuse the blocking.
Although the defense regressed in the second half, Haslett's blitzes still made an impact when it counted.
With better pass-rushers up front, Haslett might finally have the weapons to make his risky and complex fire zone system work.
But the Defense Is Still Making Too Many Fundamental Mistakes
It was a strange game defensively for the Redskins. The unit was dominant at times in the first half and easily bottled up the Bears offense.
But things came off the rails once starting quarterback Jay Cutler was injured and replaced by Josh McCown. In the second half, McCown routinely had far too much time to pick out an open receiver.
Those receivers were usually open because the secondary continues to be a liability.
More than just blaming one unit though, Washington's defense is undermined by its nasty habit of making fundamental mistakes.
Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan failing to hold contain on the edge led directly to Matt Forte's 50-yard touchdown burst.
Then there was safety Brandon Meriweather hitting late and leading with his helmet for most of the game. He gifted the Bears yards at crucial times.
It doesn't matter how much scheming Haslett does, if he can't get his players to observe the basics, this defense will continue to be wildly inconsistent.
It would be a shame for a porous defense to let down an offense that finally seems set to get back to its prolific best.