Bears vs. Redskins: Full Roster Report Card Grades for Chicago
The Bears actually had several players put up very good performances, but they had far too many huge mistakes, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The players don't deserve all the blame for the loss. The Bears were easily out-coached on both sides of the ball.
The Bears still scored plenty of points, despite playing the entire second half without starting quarterback Jay Cutler. Their game plan heading into the game was terribly flawed, as they basically ignored running back Matt Forte until Cutler was injured.
Defensively, the Bears gave up five passing plays of 20 or more yards to a team that had just 11 such plays entering the game. They were lost in coverage, beat at the line of scrimmage and appear to be the only team whose coach didn't study the read option in the offseason.
All of that said, the Bears still needed to play better. As good as their offense was at times, they had one huge mistake that resulted in a touchdown for the Redskins.
As the Bears enter their bye week, there are quite a few players who should be losing their starting jobs. You could argue one defensive starter in particular should have an even worse fate than that for his performance against the Redskins.
In the following slides, you'll see letter grades for many of the players on the Bears' roster. As always, I consider the expectations for each unit and the competition they were going against.
Jay Cutler, Josh McCown
While Cutler got off to a rough start, McCown was much better than expected after Cutler left with an injury.
The statistics are more cruel to Cutler than his performance was. He was off on a couple throws, but he didn't have a lot of time or spots to put the balls. The big mistake came on a very good throw that hit his receiver in the hands, yet ended up being intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
Cutler's injury could derail the Bears' season, but if McCown is able to repeat his performance, the Bears offense shouldn't be completely terrible.
Make no mistake—McCown isn't going to the Pro Bowl this year, or any year, for that matter. He can be a game manager however. He's a savvy veteran, who seemed to be smart and mobile with a strong enough arm to make some difficult throws.
The Bears drastically changed their game plan once McCown went into the game. They started running the ball more and throwing shorter passes, including a number of screen passes to their receivers.
McCown's biggest mistake came on the last play of the game, as he was sacked with under 10 seconds remaining. He appeared to be out of the pocket, yet he didn't throw the ball away. The sack ended any chance the Bears had at throwing a Hail Mary to win the game.
McCown completed 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. Cutler completed just three of eight passes for 28 yards.
The biggest difference between the two players was the performance of those around him. The Bears linemen were suddenly able to hold their blocks for longer and their receivers did a nice job of getting open and making plays on passes in their vicinity.
Matt Forte, Tony Fiammetta
Once again, coach Marc Trestman seemed to forget Forte is one of his best players.
As the Bears were struggling to stop the Redskins and their defense were in desperate need of a rest, Forte had just four touches in the first half.
He got the ball 14 times in the second half and finished with 91 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries, while catching two passes for 18 yards.
Perhaps just as confusing is the fact that the Bears aren't playing Michael Bush. Although he has the ninth-highest salary-cap figure on the team, Bush didn't receive a carry against the Redskins.
Either general manager Phil Emery messed up by signing Bush or Trestman is messing up by not using him. In the past, Bush has looked like a versatile player who could add a power element to the Bears offense.
Tony Fiammetta was the only running back to receive any playing time for the Bears. Unlike last week against the Giants, he didn't make an impact against the Redskins.
Forte's performance was very good, but the fact that he wasn't used nearly enough was quite confusing. I'm not going to downgrade him for his coach not giving him the ball.
Martellus Bennett, Eben Britton, Dante Rosario
This may have been the worst game of the season for Bennett. Although his one catch was important, it was the only positive impact he made in the game.
Until he caught a go-ahead touchdown with 3:57 left, Bennett was shut out. He also struggled as a blocker at times.
He was questionable heading into the game with a knee injury, so perhaps that played a role in his ineffectiveness. A shoulder injury he suffered in Week 2 has also been hurting him as a blocker.
Britton was solid as a blocker when he was in the game. The Bears probably should've used him more to run the ball against a defense that has struggled to stop top running backs.
Rosario didn't make an impact on the game.
While the Bears scored 41 points, this was one position from which they didn't get much. It was probably a combination of injury and game-planning done by the Redskins, but the Bears will need more from them in the future.
Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Marquess Wilson
In this week's version of Jeffery's development, we saw him make a game-changing mistake and along with a few big plays.
Try all you want, but there's no good excuse for Jeffery not catching the pass that ended up being intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Brian Orakpo. The throw was a little high, but that's where a player with Jeffery's height and long arms should be targeted. He had both hands on the ball but wasn't able to come down with it. The end result of the play was an easy touchdown for the other team. It's exactly the kind of play receivers can't make.
Other than that mistake, the Bears got mostly good things from Jeffery. He caught four passes for 105 yards and ran twice for 16 yards. His catches seemed to have a higher degree of difficulty than the one he dropped, and he made some plays after the catch.
The potential to be spectacular is so clearly there. He's a difficult cover for opposing defensive backs—he just has to not hurt himself and the team.
Marshall was solid, but not as spectacular as he's been in the past. He seemed to have a hard time getting open in the first half, but he made plays after the catch in the second half.
Bennett made a few nice grabs, including what would've been a touchdown if not for a penalty in the fourth quarter. Wilson got the first catch of his career when Jeffery left the field with a minor injury.
While they struggled when Cutler was in the game, the Bears receivers picked up their play in the second half. They were a large part of the reason why McCown had so much success.
Still, Jeffery's big mistake in the first half makes it impossible for them to get too good of a grade.
Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, Kyle Long, Jordan Mills
After a bad start, this group played better in the second half.
Cutler was under a lot of pressure when he was in there. Even on the throw to Jeffery that was intercepted, he had players all around him.
Jordan Mills might be a very good right tackle one day, but it doesn't look like it will happen this season. He just doesn't appear to be getting any better.
When McCown replaced Cutler, the line—as well as the rest of the offense—stepped up their play. They opened some big holes for Matt Forte in the running game and gave McCown plenty of time to throw the ball. When he was pressured, he had lanes to step up and run for decent yardage.
When the Bears line blocks well, they're an unstoppable offense. The problem is they aren't consistent at all. That makes it hard for Marc Trestman to call plays and everyone else—especially the quarterback—to execute them.
If I weren't grading on a bell curve, this unit gets a slightly better grade than they probably should. If we were comparing them to another offensive line, they wouldn't look so good. However, considering what we've seen from them this season, they were solid.
Julius Peppers, Stephen Paea, Corey Wootton, Shea McClellin, Landon Cohen, Zach Minter David Bass
What else can you say about what might be the most disappointing unit in the entire league?
The guy who is supposed to be their best player—Peppers—certainly isn't willing to fall on the sword. He told the Chicago Sun-Times that his effectiveness has been limited by a variety of factors, including how the Bears are scheming.
So were they that terrible at keeping containment on the read option plays, or was it scheme? Probably both.
Typically, in a 4-3 alignment, the defensive ends are responsible for outside containment. Yet, we saw them crashing on nearly every play. When they didn't crash, they were usually able to disrupt the play.
On one play in the fourth quarter, Peppers was met by Washington fullback Darrel Young—a player on whom he has nearly 40 pounds—but he didn't even try to shed the block.
As far as the other players, Paea once again showed he wasn't a difference-maker, while Minter has no business playing on run downs.
Cohen had a couple nice plays and would've had at least one more if not for a blatant holding penalty that went uncalled.
Bass—a 2013 seventh-round pick of the Raiders—is quite clearly a better player than McClellin—a 2012 first-round pick by the Bears.
The one bright spot was that Wootton had another good performance at the 3-technique. Although he doesn't hold up in the running game as well as the Bears would like, he has been their best pass-rusher.
Lance Briggs, Jon Bostic, James Anderson, Blake Costanzo, Khaseem Greene
The prime player everyone wanted to see in this game was Bostic, and for good reason.
The second-round rookie made some big plays for the Bears and showed a knack for knifing through the interior of the offensive line. He was far from perfect, as he appeared to miss some reads, but he showed the speed and hard-hitting that has made him a fan favorite.
It was a tough assignment for Bostic's first game, so I won't judge him too harshly. He was the worst of their three starting linebackers, but the potential is obvious.
Briggs was having arguably his best game of the season until he left with an injury. Costanzo was brought on to replace him, and he really struggled to find the ball. He was taking missteps against a team that linebackers can't afford to do that against.
Costanzo left the game for one play and was replaced by Greene. On that one play, Greene was called for a bogus personal foul. That play should've been a 10-yard loss for the Redskins due to a holding call, but instead they were called for offsetting penalties, so they got to replay first down.
Anderson was solid, as usual. He had the team's only sack, but he doesn't have the speed to keep up with a player like Jordan Reed in coverage or Robert Griffin III when he runs.
Like with the defensive line, we don't know exactly what the assignments were. It appeared the Bears linebackers were responsible for outside containment on some of the plays but weren't able to get there. They blitzed quite a bit, but with limited effectiveness.
This may have been the strength of the Bears defense again this week, but again, that's not saying much.
Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Isaiah Frey, Zackary Bowman
Outside of a few plays, this unit played very well. At least two of those plays could've been the difference in the game, however, and both were the fault of Tillman.
Tillman made a great play for an interception and long return early in the game and did a nice job on Washington's Pierre Garcon throughout. It was lesser-known speedster Aldrick Robinson who gave him problems.
The Bears cornerback has always struggled with speedy receivers, so his struggles against Robinson aren't a surprise, especially considering his injury issues heading into the game. The two plays he gave up, however, were unforgivable.
The first was a 30-yard pass play on a deep crossing route in which Tillman just didn't have the speed to stay with Robinson. That gave the Redskins a first down at the Bears 21, and they later scored a touchdown.
The second was a 45-yard touchdown in which the ball hung up in the air forever, but Tillman wasn't able to make a play on it. He wasn't the only player at fault—I'll get to the other one later—but it was still a ball he should've been able to intercept.
That was Tillman's last play of the game, as he was replaced by Bowman. Bowman made a nice play on Washington's last drive, but he wasn't able to secure an interception. He was good for the Bears, however, as it appears clear a healthy Bowman is better than a hobbled Tillman.
Jennings was good for the Bears, as was Frey, but neither was able to make a big play for the team.
Major Wright, Chris Conte, Craig Steltz
At this point, it appears painfully clear that if the Bears aren't going to change defensive coordinators, they need two starting safeties, because neither Conte nor Wright are capable of doing what Mel Tucker wants them to.
Awful doesn't even begin to describe Conte's performance against the Redskins. He was the man who was mostly responsible for three touchdowns.
Early in the game, he was run over by Roy Helu. Later, he was beaten by Jordan Reed on a fade in which he never even tried to play the ball, and lastly, he fell down on Adrick Robinson's 45-yard touchdown catch. The throw on that play was awful, as it hung up in the air forever, but Conte wasn't capable of keeping on his feet to make the play.
If you judged only on this game, you would say that Conte not only should be benched, but he has no business being in the NFL at all. He was that bad.
Although he didn't have the glaring mistakes, Wright wasn't much better, as he once again struggled in coverage.
After one blown assignment in the fourth quarter, Wright was taken out of the game for Steltz. That begs the question: Why not take one of them out permanently?
It is so obvious to everyone in the world that Wright and Conte aren't capable of doing what Tucker wants, so why ask them to do it anymore? They were both considered up-and-coming future stars last year, and now neither look like NFL players. How could they have both gotten that much worse?
Someone needs to lose their job. If it's not one—or both—of the safeties, it should be Tucker.
Devin Hester, Robbie Gould, Adam Podlesh
I'll start with the bad: Gould has to make a 34-yard field goal. There is no excuse for missing that, and he's usually automatic from that range.
That said, he did make two much more difficult field goals from farther out. He hit a 47-yard kick for the Bears' first points of the game and later made a 48-yarder.
Now, the good.
Gould's surprise onside kick was flawlessly executed, as Zackary Bowman was able to recover it. The play should've stood, but again the referees intervened. They said the Bears were offsides, even though that clearly was not the case.
After this call, one former Bears player seemed to think the referees had other intentions in the game. After seeing replays of some of the calls they made against the Bears, it's hard to argue with him.
Podlesh's first punt was a beauty, as he kicked the ball 65 yards, pinning the Redskins at their own 1-yard line. He put another punt inside the 20, although he also had one poor kick as well.
Saving the best for last, Hester proved me wrong.
In a preview for the game, I doubted Hester could still make a difference. He hadn't done much recently, but his return against the Redskins was great.
He caught the ball with a Washington player near him and was able to fight him off just long enough for Eric Weems to come over and get the block. Weems hasn't gotten enough credit for this play as he made sure he got around for a legal block.
Hester was then able to get to the opposite sideline, where he had a long line of blockers. He read them perfectly and scored a record-tying 81-yard touchdown.
It was—as Jeff Joniak would say—ridiculous.
This would be a perfect grade for the special teams unit if not for one missed field goal. That kick wasn't the difference between winning and losing, but if the Bears only had to make a field goal instead of needing to score a touchdown on their last possession, it could've been very different.