What We Saw: Commanders at Bears

Another forgettable night. Thursdays, huh?

Commanders @ Bears

Final Score: Commanders 12, Bears 7

Senior Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

After one of the worst Thursday Night Football games in NFL history last week, the world waited with bated breath as the hapless Washington Commanders visited the uninspiring Chicago Bears to kick off Week 6. There were two lone bright spots that offered a glimmer of hope – the first was the quarterback play of Chicago’s Justin Fields, who has steadily shown improvements in Luke Getsy‘s new offense; and the second was the starting debut of Washington’s rookie running back Brian Robinson, who had miraculously recovered from gunshot wounds suffered just a couple of months ago. Could they provide the spark to make this contest a worthy watch? Let’s find out.

After a terrible first quarter which seemed to confirm every watcher’s worst nightmare, the spark was eventually provided by promising young Bears running back Khalil Herbert, who produced something special on this 64-yard run at the start of the second quarter. Fair play to Fields, who put in a nice block to open up the outside for his back.

 

However, Fields missed a wide open Ryan Griffen for an easy touchdown by slightly overthrowing the big tight end before Herbert was then stuffed at the goal line on fourth down to keep the game scoreless. Cole Holecomb with the big stop from the linebacker position. Oh, man!

 

With the half winding down and the score 0-0, the referees decided to spice things up with a couple of questionable pass interference calls against the Bears, allowing the Commanders to move into Chicago territory and threaten to score for the first time in the game. Curtis Samuel then dropped a sure-fire touchdown pass from Wentz from a perfectly thrown deep ball. Hello darkness, my old friend…

 

The Commanders settled for a field goal and went in with a 3-0 lead at the break. Riveting!

The second half saw the Bears once again proving to be more efficient in moving the ball. This time, they made it count. A creative opening Chicago drive resulted in a Fields deep ball to Dante Pettis for the touchdown. It was a phenomenal throw from Fields that the former 49ers wideout hauled in brilliantly over his shoulder. What a play!

 

The Commanders were caught with 12-men on defense for the score and for the second time in the game on a key play. All eyes were on the Washington sideline as under-fire Head Coach Ron Rivera looked mystified. “Riverboat Ron” had thrown his quarterback under the bus in midweek saying his team was behind the other teams in the NFC East because of Wentz, however his defense had a lot to answer for at times in this game. The Commanders look like a team leaderless on both sides of the ball, and on the sideline. Not great.

They did manage to orchestrate a drive into the red zone in response to the Bears touchdown, however the play calling from Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner was criminal, which included a Wentz designed run on second and long and a false start on third down after a break for the start of the fourth quarter. Dreadful. Once again they settled for a field goal.

However, a huge mistake from rookie Velus Jones Jr. on a muffed punt handed the ball back to Washington with under eight minutes to play. From the Chicago 6-yard line, Robinson ran the ball in to give the Commmanders another unlikely lead.

 

The Bears were given a lifeline inside of the two-minute warning at the end of the game with Commanders kicker Joey Slye missing a 48-yard field goal to give Chicago hope with no time outs and a touchdown needed to win the game. David Montgomery had a big catch and run before Fields himself produced a bit of magic to run the ball down to the 6-yard line.

 

52 seconds left and four chances to get into the end zone! Fields tried to run the ball in but was short near the sideline. He then had a pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage attempting to hit Darnell Mooney. And then on third and goal a deep ball to the back of the end zone failed to connect with Dante Pettis. Fourth down! Here’s what happened…

 

Mooney has to catch that. Commanders win.

 

Washington Commanders

 

Quarterback

 

Carson Wentz: 12/22, 99 Yards | 2 Carries, 2 Yards

 

It was another dismal performance from Carson Wentz for the Commanders, who looked hopeless on offense under Scott Turner‘s play calling all night. Wentz was clunky, slow and hesitant, failing to process through reads on almost every drive. When he did have time to release the ball, he wouldn’t trust his receivers in contested situations. It was an anaemic performance that writes him off as a fantasy quarterback for the foreseeable future.

Wentz was particularly clueless against the blitz, failing to recognize the defensive formations and taking a number of sacks to stunt his team’s momentum. There was nothing good to report on after this showing from the journeyman quarterback.

 

His most meaningful contribution was a block on Chicago defensive star Roquan Smith in the lead up to Washington’s only touchdown of the game. Fair play, nice hit. Zero fantasy points though!

 

Running Back

 

Brian Robinson: 17 Carries, 60 Yards, TD

Antonio Gibson: 5 Carries, 35 Yards | 4 Targets, 3 Receptions, 18 Yards

J.D. McKissic: 2 Carries, 20 Yards | 3 Targets

 

The promise of a Brian Robinson showcase never really materialized as the rookie back was consistently met by an aggressive Bears defense down the middle. Roquan Smith pummelled into Robinson all night and he was limited to under three yards per carry despite a healthy nine touches on the ground. His most meaningful run came with the Commanders trying to run out the clock prior to the two-minute warning.

 

Antonio Gibson was finally brought into the game in the second half and immediately inspired the Commanders down the field with five touches for 51 yards to put them into field goal position. Gibson then only saw one more touch for the rest of the game as Robinson was once again featured to try and run down the clock late on. Not a promising situation for fantasy purposes.

 

Wide Receiver / Tight End

 

Terry McLaurin: 2 Carries, 11 Yards | 4 Targets, 3 Receptions, 41 Yards | 1 Fumble (Recovered)

Cole Turner: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 23 Yards

Cam Sims: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 6 Yards

Curtis Samuel: 5 Targets, 2 Receptions, 6 Yards

Dax Milne: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 5 Yards

Dyami Brown: 1 Target

 

The most fantasy irrelevant wide receiver group in the league right now suffered another horrific night in terms of statistics. With Wentz throwing for only 99 yards, and 18 of those going to Gibson, that left a measly 81 yards to share around. Yikes! Terry McLauren led the team with three catches (three!) for 41 yards and was effectively marked out of the offense thanks to a heavy tag from the exciting young Bears secondary duo of Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon. His biggest play was on a slant for 17 yards after Johnson slipped on the release. McLaurin remains a fantasy disappointment, although we blame Turner and Wentz for that.

 

There was a rare Curtis Samuel sighting in the second half but generally he was an afterthought in this contest. His big drop in the first half sent him to the doghouse for the night leaving fantasy managers wondering what could have been.

 

Chicago Bears

 

Quarterback

 

Justin Fields: 14/27, 190 Yards, TD, INT | 12 Carries, 88 Yards

 

It was a mixed bag from Justin Fields in front of an expectant home crowd. He did a lot of good things, missed some makeable throws due to rookie errors (yeah, we know he is technically not a rookie), and also suffered due to a couple of bad drops from his receivers. He actual played pretty well and deserved to win the game more than Wentz did, for sure. But football is a cruel game. Fields led a couple of drives expertly into the red zone in the first half only to see his team come away with nothing. The first drive was a nice mix of short throws, rushes and Fields using his legs to move the chains before a throw at the Wshington 5-yard line cannoned into the helmet of Efe Obada and spooned up into the air for what seemed like an age before Jonathan Allen (who was formidable all game on the Commanders defensive line) came down with it.

 

The second was after the Bears had four chances to punch the ball in from the Commanders 3-yard line. Fields missing a wide open Griffen and Herbert failing to run it in twice from the goal line. It was a messy night near the goal line from the Bears.

Fields was his own worst enemy at times, spending far too much time holding onto the ball when the play had run its course. Here is a prime example of when he should just throw the ball away after multiple reads don’t yield anything. Instead he takes a sack, a hit and puts his offense further away from moving the chains.

 

At other times it was a revolving door on the Bears offensive line, Allen and Sweat consistently finding themselves chasing Fields around the backfield at will. There was little Fields could do for the majority of his pressures.

 

If anything, this was another step forward in the wider scheme of things, however there is the acceptance that Fields is still working through rookie things after what was in all purposes a lost year under Matt Nagy in 2021. There is enough there to believe in the former Ohio State superstar as a franchise dual-threat quarterback, however. Stick with him.

 

Running Back

 

Khalil Herbert: 7 Carries, 75 Yards

David Montgomery: 15 Carries, 67 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 13 Yards | 1 Fumble (Recovered)

 

The Bears ran for 238 yards of offense at an average of 6.7 yards per carry so it is unfathomable that they ended up losing this game. Much more penetrative on the ground, turnovers and inability to punch it in the end zone when it counted most was their downfall. Fields led the team in rishing yards and took it upon himself to move the sticks on a number of third downs.

 

Despite out-carrying Khalil Herbert 16-7, David Montgomery was pedestrian with his opportunities and notably did not have an opportunity to run the ball in after their first trip into the red zone. Those opportunities went to Herbert, who himself struggled after his first carry was that huge 64-yard gain. His next six carries totalled just 11 yards, including those missed attempts near the goal line.

It’s a full committee approach in Chicago with a stuttering offensive scheme, the perfect storm for an unproductive fantasy situation. With Fields given more responsibility to make things happen near the goal line (evident on the drive at the end of the game where neither back got an opportunity with no time outs), both these backs could be limited in opportunities to hit paydirt going forward.

 

Wide Receiver / Tight End

 

Dante Pettis: 7 Targets, 4 Receptions, 84 Yards, TD

Darnell Mooney: 12 Targets, 7 Receptions, 68 Yards

Cole Kmet: 3 Targets, 1 Reception, 15 Yards

Velus Jones Jr.: 1 Carry, 8 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 10 Yards | 1 Fumble (Lost)

Ihmir Smith-Marsette: 1 Carry, -1 Yard | 1 Target

Equanimeous St. Brown: 1 Carry, 1 Yard

Ryan Griffin: 1 Target

 

When the Bears needed a receiver to step up and make a play, Dante Pettis answered the call. He connected with Fields on a nice route in the first half on the promising drive into the red zone that unluckily resulted in a turnover.

 

Fields then went back to the little-used wideout for the deep ball touchdown in the second. Pettis saw a healthy seven targets and looks to have developed some chemistry with Fields. He could be a value FLEX play during the bye weeks. However, he did have two drops that should have been hauled in, a trait that plagued him back with the 49ers at the start of his career.

Pettis and Darnell Mooney look to be the only relevant options in the air as Cole Kmet put up another dud. Mooney was guilty of two bad drops, including on the fourth down play that ended the Bears’ resistance in the fourth quarter. After a spectacular catch last week, Mooney failed to back it up and showed once again he has issues with his hands when in contested situations. Kmet hauled in a nice pass near the sideline for a 15-yard gain on the Bears’ second drive of the game, then completely disappeared for the rest of the contest. It was his only catch on three targets.

 

Ihmir Smith-Marsette didn’t give the Bears fanbase any reason to get behind him last week after having the ball tripped from his hands by former teammate Cameron Dantzler in the loss to the Vikings, and this week he let a key fourth down pass slip through his hands and bounce off his face mask incomplete. Not a great start to his career as a Bear. This receiving room is as bad as what expected at the start of the year.

 

Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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