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3 things that stood out in Week 16 loss

Posted Dec 25, 2016

One day later, senior writer Larry Mayer discusses three things that stood out in the Bears' 41-21 loss to the Washington Redskins Saturday at Soldier Field.

The Bears fell to 3-12 with a 41-21 blowout loss to the Washington Redskins Saturday at Soldier Field. Here are three things that stood out about the game:

(1) After showing promise in four previous starts, quarterback Matt Barkley struggled mightily, throwing five interceptions.

Poor decision-making and bad throws plagued Barkley, who was intercepted on the Bears’ first four possessions of the second half and five times overall. One of the picks came when he threw into triple coverage on a deep post pattern intended for Joshua Bellamy. Another occurred when Barkley was trying to avoid a sack and tossed the ball up for grabs over the middle.

“I feel like on some plays I just tried to win the game on that play and tried to do too much,” said Barkley, who completed 24 of 40 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns in addition to the five back-breaking interceptions. “Those are times when you have to eat it and live to see another play.”

Barkley has now committed nine turnovers in the last two games—he threw three picks and lost a fumble Dec. 18 in a loss to the Packers—which certainly won’t enhance his chances of earning an opportunity to compete for a job with the Bears next year. Barkley has thrown 12 interceptions in 202 pass attempts this season, while Brian Hoyer had no picks on 200 passes this year.

Given that coach John Fox said after Saturday’s loss that he would not consider starting untested backup David Fales in next Sunday’s season finale in Minnesota, Barkley will get one final chance to impress heading into the offseason.

(2) The Bears defense provided little resistance, allowing points on five straight possessions and 7 of 10 overall excluding a kneel-down at the end of the first half.

Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman returned after serving a four-game PED suspension, but that didn’t prevent the defense from continuing to regress. The Bears allowed a season-high 41 points, gave up 208 yards on the ground and failed to generate a takeaway for the fifth time in their last six games and the eighth time this season. The defense has just seven interceptions all year, one fewer than Barkley has thrown in the last two games.

Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 18 of 29 passes for 270 yards with one touchdown and a 104.1 passer rating without being sacked. He also rushed for 30 yards and two TDs on five carries. The Bears struggled to cover receivers DeSean Jackson (five catches for 114 yards) and Pierre Garcon (4-94). In the second quarter alone, cornerback Tracy Porter got beat by Garcon for receptions of 25 and 46 yards and committed a 28-yard pass interference penalty.  

The Bears run defense hasn’t fared any better. After not allowing a run of more than 30 yards in the first 13 games of the season, the unit has yielded runs of 61, 61, 42 and 36 yards in back-to-back losses to the Packers and Redskins. One of the 61-yard gains came in the final minute of Saturday’s loss by Washington backup Mack Brown, a first-year pro who had no career rushing attempts before facing the Bears.

(3) The most pleasant surprise in a bleak Bears season continues to be rookie running back Jordan Howard, who registered his sixth 100-yard game.

The fifth-round pick from Indiana broke a tie with Beattie Feathers (1934) and Rashaan Salaam (1995) Saturday for the most 100-yard rushing games by a Bears rookie, gaining 119 yards on 18 carries. Howard needs 61 yards next Sunday in Minnesota to eclipse Matt Forte’s single-season rookie mark of 1,238 yards.

Since starting in place of the injured Jeremy Langford in Week 4, Howard has maintained a stranglehold on the job and emerged as one of the top steals in the draft.