Khalil Mack Dominates as Mitchell Trubisky, Bears Beat Case Keenum, Redskins

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2019

Chicago Bears linebackers Aaron Lynch (99) and Khalil Mack (52) celebrate Mack's hit to cause a fumble by the Washington Redskins during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

The Chicago Bears extended their modest early winning streak to two games on Monday with a 31-15 victory over Washington at FedExField.

Despite some initial offensive struggles this season, the defending NFC North champions are 2-1 and right behind the undefeated Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions in the division race. The Mitchell Trubisky and Taylor Gabriel combination torched Washington's secondary, while Khalil Mack and the stifling defense did the rest for the visitors.

As for Washington, it fell to 0-3 and is already three games behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.

            

Notable Fantasy Stats

  • Mitchell Trubisky: 25-of-31 passing for 231 yards, three touchdowns and one interception
  • David Montgomery: 13 carries for 67 yards and zero touchdowns; three catches for 14 yards
  • Allen Robinson: six catches for 60 yards and zero touchdowns
  • Taylor Gabriel: six catches for 75 yards and three touchdowns
  • Case Keenum: 30-of-43 passing for 331 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions
  • Adrian Peterson: 12 carries for 37 yards and zero touchdowns
  • Terry McLaurin: six catches for 70 yards and one touchdown
  • Paul Richardson: eight catches for 83 yards and one touchdown

            

Bears Offense Finally Finds Success with Simplified Approach

One thing was clear for the Bears in the first two weeks—the defense was championship-level and the offense was a major concern.

They allowed a combined 24 points against the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos but were just 1-1 because the offense found the end zone a single time on a David Montgomery run. The team's ceiling is entirely dependent on Trubisky living up to expectations as the No. 2 overall pick in a 2017 NFL draft that also featured Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, and he didn't score in the opening two weeks.

Head coach Matt Nagy responded by simplifying the playbook with tempo, rollout plays and short passes to quickly get the ball out of his quarterback's hands. The result was easy throws in space where defenders had to commit to either stopping Trubisky on the run or sticking with the receiver.

Gabriel's first two touchdowns were as straightforward as they come in the NFL, and Trubisky's individual instincts and athleticism took over from there after he was comfortable.

He made his best play of the season in the final minute of the second quarter when he escaped the pocket with his legs and found Gabriel in the corner of the end zone for the combination's third touchdown. While Gabriel made an incredible catch before he was ruled out with a concussion, it was the type of throw the Bears front office surely envisioned when it traded up to draft Trubisky.

While Chicago will face much better competition as the season progresses, there was finally reason for offensive optimism.

Look for Nagy to rely on Monday's formula in future contests. Trubisky grew more comfortable after keeping things simple out of the gates, which is all the Bears need with their dominant defense on the other side.

          

Case Keenum Overwhelmed by Stifling Bears Defense

Sometimes quarterbacks are just in over their heads.

Case Keenum is a temporary placeholder for Washington until Dwayne Haskins, whom the NFC East team selected with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 draft, takes over as the eventual face of the franchise. While the veteran was solid with five touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the first two games, Monday was a different story against Mack and Co.

Chicago's defense set the tone right away with a Ha Ha Clinton-Dix pick-six on Washington's opening possession before Mack took over for the rest of the first half.

The four-time Pro Bowler destroyed Washington's offense line with two sacks, multiple forced fumbles (although one was overturned for a borderline penalty) and consistent pressure that forced the ball out of Keenum's hands before the routes fully developed. His mere presence forced the opposition to shift additional attention his way, which opened up blitzing lanes elsewhere.

Keenum naturally started forcing the issue so he wouldn't be hit by Mack, which is one reason he threw another pick to Clinton-Dix and one to Kyle Fuller as the game continued.

While he eventually found a rhythm in the second half with Terry McLaurin, he lost all the momentum he built with a key 4th-down fumble while driving in the fourth quarter. The crowd was even calling for Haskins at times, but putting the rookie across from Mack for his first regular-season experience would have been a poor decision.

That's more than plenty of experienced quarterbacks in the league can handle.

          

What's Next?

Both teams square off with divisional foes in Week 4. The Bears host the Minnesota Vikings, while Washington is on the road to play the New York Giants.

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