The Bears defense deserved a better fate Thursday night at Soldier Field.
In a 12-7 loss to the Commanders, the unit allowed only 214 total yards and 14 first downs, permitted 2-of-11 third-down conversions and gave up just one touchdown—on a drive that started on the Bears' 6 after a turnover.
It was a vast improvement over last Sunday's performance in Minnesota, when the defense allowed the Vikings to score touchdowns on their first three possessions and permitted 8-of-12 third-down conversions in a 29-22 loss.
"It was a point of emphasis to start fast," said linebacker Nicholas Morrow. "It was also a point of emphasis to make third-down stops, and we did that."
On each of Washington's first two drives, successful third-down blitzes resulted in sacks by safety Jaquan Brisker and linebacker Roquan Smith. The Bears later forced the Commanders to settle for field goals after cornerback Jaylon Johnson broke up a third-down pass in the end zone and tackle Justin Jones deflected a pass on third-and-goal from the 10.
"Defense played really well; really good on third down," said coach Matt Eberflus. "The defensive staff worked really hard at that this week, and we certainly were pleased with that."
Unfortunately, the defense was overshadowed by an offense that failed to produce any points on three possessions that reached the Washington 5-yard line.
Costly mistake: Rookie Velus Jones Jr. muffed a punt that resulted in a turnover for the second time in three games.
With the Bears protecting a 7-6 lead early in the fourth quarter, he tried to field a punt at his own 9, stumbled and failed to catch the ball. The Commanders recovered at the 6 and went ahead 12-7 two plays later on Brian Robinson's 1-yard TD run.
"I was trying to do too much," Jones said. "The ball went deep; it would have went in the end zone. But I tried to run back and make a play on it. Should have let it roll into the end zone for a touchback. It wasn't a smart play."
The miscue came two weeks after Jones muffed a punt late in a road game against the Giants that all but sealed a 20-12 loss.
Eberflus acknowledged that the Bears will consider replacing Jones on punts, saying: "The No. 1 job of a kick returner or punt returner is to catch the ball, so we are going to have to look at that."
See all of the game action unfold from behind the lens in Chicago as the Bears battle the Commanders at Soldier Field on Thursday Night Football.
Scrambling sensation: Under constant pressure, quarterback Justin Fields rushed for a game-high 88 yards on 12 carries, including a sensational 39-yard scramble to the Washington 6 on the Bears' final possession.
The 88 yards were the second-highest total of his two-year NFL career, topped only by a 103-yard outing last Oct. 31 against the 49ers, and his 39-yard run was the longest of his career.
Fields took several big hits and was slow to get up, but he never left the game. Washington's defense recorded five sacks and 12 quarterback hits in the contest.
"He's got a lot of guts," Morrow said, "just seeing some of the runs and some of the hits he takes and he keeps going."
On the shelf: Bears inactives were receiver N'Keal Harry, tight end Jake Tonges, defensive end Kingsley Jonathan and cornerback Lamar Jackson.
This and that: Khalil Herbert's 64-yard run was the longest of his career and the longest by a Bears player since Dec. 13, 2020, when David Montgomery produced an 80-yard TD run on the Bears' first play from scrimmage in a win over the Texans at Soldier Field … The Bears rushed for 238 yards on 37 carries and fell to 66-7 all-time when running for at least 238 yards. It's their most rushing yards in a loss since Sept. 30, 1984, when they compiled 283 yards on the ground in a 23-14 defeat to the Cowboys at Soldier Field … On 10 possessions, the Bears picked up first downs on nine series and crossed into Commanders territory on seven drives.