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What accounted for Bears' red-zone woes? | Chalk Talk


Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of questions from fans on

Thursday night's loss was very frustrating. What do you think was most to blame for the Bears failing to produce any points on three possessions that reached Washington's 5-yard line? Was it play-calling? Lack of protection? Execution?
Ronald F.

I don't think it was play-calling or poor pass protection. I'd attribute it mostly to execution and a little to bad luck. Early in the game, Cole Kmet was open over the middle, but Justin Fields fired the ball into the helmet of a defensive lineman and the pass deflected high in the air and was intercepted. In the second quarter, Fields overthrew a wide-open Ryan Griffin on a well-designed play, where Fields faked a handoff up the middle and faked an end around before throwing to Griffin, who had released into the end zone after blocking on the play. Fields later threw on-target passes on the Bears' final two snaps of the game. But Dante Pettis was clearly interfered with and no flag was thrown, and Darnell Mooney bobbled a pass he lost in the lights before securing the ball inches short of the goal line on fourth down. Had Mooney caught the pass cleanly, it would have been a game-winning touchdown and the narrative would have been a whole lot different.

Do you think that the Bears will replace Velus Jones Jr. as their punt returner?
Edward S.
Bradenton, Florida

I certainly wouldn't be surprised if the Bears replaced Velus Jones Jr. with Dante Pettis as their punt returner, at least temporarily. Jones has had two costly turnovers on muffed punts in the last three games that have contributed to losses, and he conceded after the Commanders contest that it's become a mental thing for him. I'm sure his role on offense will continue to expand; he had an 8-yard rush and a 10-yard reception versus Washington. He's an explosive player, and generating impact plays on offense could help him regain his confidence after the two muffed punts.

I was surprised that N'Keal Harry didn't play against Washington. Do you think he will be ready to make his Bears debut against his former team, the Patriots?
Pete F.
Franklin Park, Illinois

Barring a setback, yes, I expect receiver N'Keal Harry to play Monday night when the Bears visit the Patriots, the team that selected him with the 32nd pick in the 2019 draft out of Arizona State. Harry returned to practice less than two weeks ago for the first time since injuring his ankle Aug. 6 in training camp. The Bears had a short week last week—they practiced only once—so getting him up and ready to face the Commanders was difficult. With the Bears having a mini-bye in advance of Monday night's game versus the Patriots, I think we'll see Harry make his season debut in New England if he's able to practice Thursday through Saturday.

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