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Keys to the Game: 3 things that will help Bears beat Commanders

Bears quarterback Justin Fields
Bears quarterback Justin Fields

The Bears (0-4) visit the Washington Commanders (2-2) Thursday night at FedExField. Here are three things that should increase their chances of winning:

(1) Perform on offense like they did last Sunday against the Broncos.

The unit had its most prolific outing of the season versus Denver, generating four touchdowns, 471 total yards and 26 first downs. The effort was led by quarterback Justin Fields, who established career highs with 335 yards, four TDs and a 132.7 passer rating. Fields set a Bears record by completing 16 straight passes and was 23 of 24 through three quarters, with his only incompletion coming on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half.

Asked what the Bears can carry over from that performance to Thursday night's game versus the Commanders, Fields said: "I think you can look at what we did, how guys went up, like for example DJ [Moore] making a contested catch, how guys were on the details, how guys ran the routes at the right depths, how the line protected, you can carry that over. But scheme-wise, you really can't because most teams do things differently, so you're also going to have to change things up offensively to try to attack the defense the way they can be attacked and a way that you can score points on them."

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy called replicating week-to-week how the offense played last Sunday "part of the next step" but acknowledged the unit also must eliminate the mistakes it committed in the fourth quarter versus the Broncos.

"We've got to make sure that we can consistently execute," Getsy said. "The penalties part of it was an issue that we can't seem to get rid of just quite yet. We were able to overcome most of those, except for the big one at the end. We've got to make sure we knock those out. But the execution part of it, the communication part of it was all pretty crisp, and therefore it gave Justin an opportunity to go out and play at a high level."

(2) Produce more impact plays on defense.

The unit has recorded only two sacks and two takeaways in the first four games of the season, with both takeaways coming in the second half of a Week 3 loss to the Chiefs on interceptions of backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

The defense must generate more impact plays than that Thursday night against the Commanders, who have permitted a league-high 24 sacks and have committed eight turnovers, more than all but three other NFL teams. Interestingly, all eight turnovers have come in Washington's two home games versus the Cardinals (3) and Bills (5). Quarterback Sam Howell enters the game having completed 67.1 percent of his passes for 1,130 yards with five touchdowns, six interceptions and an 81.3 passer rating.

"That's vital," said defensive end Dominique Robinson. "That's vital to the team, that's vital to just complementary football like our coaches talk about. We've got to get it together and figure out a way to get to the quarterback. That's one of our keys this week. We want to get him off his mark a little bit, make him make some bad decisions so we can get some turnovers."

It's even more important that the Bears generate consistent pressure on the quarterback given that injuries to cornerbacks Kyler Gordon and Josh Blackwell and safeties Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker may force them to start three rookies in the secondary in cornerbacks Tyrique Stevenson and Terell Smith and safety Quindell Johnson. Jackson, Gordon and Blackwell are out, while Brisker is questionable after tweaking his hamstring in practice.

The Bears will face a Commanders offense that features running back Brian Robinson Jr. (61 carries for 261 yards and three TDs) and receiver Terry McLaurin (21 receptions for 212 yards and one TD).

The Bears were back on the practice fields at Halas Hall to continue their preparation for Thursday's Week 5 road game against the Washington Commanders.

(3) Prevent Washington's defensive line from wreaking havoc.

The Commanders are powered by a dominant front four, which is comprised of players selected in the first round of four straight drafts in ends Chase Young (2020) and Montez Sweat (2019) and tackles Daron Payne (2018) and Jonathan Allen (2017). The quartet has combined for 8.5 sacks, led by Sweat's 3.0 sacks and team-high two forced fumbles.

"Guys are just going to have to be great on double teams, sustain blocks for a long time and really just protect," Fields said. "We know everything kind of starts with the O-line. They know they're going up against a talented group, but they're excited because it's an opportunity for them to go out there and ball out. I'm excited for those guys as well and, of course, Washington as a whole, they're a talented defense. So we're excited as an offense to be able to go out there and showcase what we can do."

The Bears may not face a better tackle tandem this year than Payne and Allen.

"The two interior guys play the game as good as anybody in this league," Getsy said, "being able to diagnose what's going on, get two hands on an offensive lineman, see what's happening in the backfield and then react. It's a challenge, so we have to do a really good job to try to be creative and get every aspect of our game going."

In a 12-7 loss to the Commanders last season at Soldier Field, Fields rushed for 88 yards on 12 carries and threw a 40-yard TD pass to Dante Pettis. But Fields was also sacked five times, with Payne, Allen and Sweat all recording one sack apiece.

"Really good defense coming up," said tight end Cole Kmet. "A lot of the guys we played last year are still on that team, so you can use the tape from last year and look at it. We're going to have to be creative in some regards but also go at them and wear them down up front and understand that this defensive front, I think, is one of the best in the league."

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