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Barkley's five picks stall offense

Posted Dec 24, 2016

Quarterback Matt Barkley struggled versus Washington, throwing five interceptions, several of which halted positive momentum for the Chicago offense.

Over and over again, Matt Barkley jogged off the Soldier Field turf on Saturday with a disgusted look on his face. Part of Barkley's frustration was anger at himself, another part was just complete shock in what was taking place. The Chicago quarterback had a rough afternoon versus Washington in Week 16, but the worst part took place during a difficult stretch in the third and fourth quarters. Barkley threw interceptions to end each of the first four Chicago offensive drives in the second half, and finished the game with five picks overall.

Barkley's struggles were a huge reason why the Bears fell to the Redskins on Saturday 41-21. The quarterback flashed some of the impressive potential he showed over the past month as the team's starter under center, throwing a pair of beautiful touchdowns during the game. But too often, poor throws and incorrect decisions with the ball doomed him. Whether it was throws into heavy coverage or not seeing pressure charging him in the backfield, the play of Barkley kept the Bears offense in reverse as their Washington counterparts charged ahead.

Matt Barkley
Matt Barkley completed 24 of 40 passes for 323 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions.

"It's a tough one to swallow," Barkley said.

He finished the game 24 for 40 for 323 yards, throwing TDs to Cameron Meredith and Deonte Thompson, but because of the five interceptions, his passer rating was 62.8, the lowest in any of his five starts this season.

"It's kind of one that you want to forget," he said. "There's still a lot to learn from. There's a lot that we did well. It's just that the glaring mistakes stand out and those are the ones that hurt."

Several of Barkley's interceptions killed positive momentum that the Bears were creating offensively. At the end of the first quarter, Barkley hit Meredith down the left sideline for a 21-yard gain, the quarterback's longest pass of the afternoon at that point. But on the very next play – on the first snap of the second quarter – Barkley threw deep down the middle of the field to Joshua Bellamy. Along with the one Bears wideout there were three Washington defenders, including cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who picked Barkley off.

In the third quarter, momentum was halted again because of a poor Barkley throw. Chicago drove it 29 yards on eight plays, putting the ball at the Washington 44. On second down, the Redskins generated pressure off the edge, as Preston Smith got his hands around the quarterback. Barkley looked to evade the sack and throw it away, but instead tossed in into the middle of the field. Cornerback Josh Norman made a diving interception, giving the Redskins the ball again.

After the early turnovers, Barkley seemingly just couldn't back on track. The pick by Norman was the first of four interceptions in a 12-play span by the Bears quarterback spanning the third and fourth quarters. By the time Barkley shook his turnover bug, the game was seemingly out of hand, with Washington leading by 20 points midway through the fourth quarter.

"I feel like, on some plays, I just tried to win the game on that play and tried to do too much," Barkley said. "There are times when you have to eat it and live to see another play."

"[Barkley] continued to fight, we all kept continuing to fight," said receiver Alshon Jeffery. "We told him to keep his head up. That's part of football, things are going to happen you just have to respond."

Every quarterback has rough days like Barkley did Saturday. But what defines a player is how he responds to the adversity. Barkley's teammates in the locker room all said following the loss that he was upbeat and positive on the sideline, never losing his confidence in his own abilities.

The Bears were overmatched in every phase of the game, so the play of the quarterback didn't single-handedly make the difference. However with one week left to go in the 2016 season, there is no doubt that every Chicago player – including the quarterback – wants to leave a better taste in their mouth than the one a bitter loss Washington did.

"I think I was standing in my own way, just in my own head of trying to do too much and trying to win the game," Barkley said. "You just got to treat it as a 0-0 game, make smart decisions with the ball and give our guys a chance to win."