LANDOVER, MD – It’s hard to believe given his talent and ball skills, but Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had not scored a defensive touchdown in high school, college or the NFL—until Monday night.
Clinton-Dix gave the Bears a 7-0 lead by intercepting a Case Keenum pass and returning it 37 yards for a TD. After his team's 31-15 win, the veteran safety said he thought his last defensive touchdown had come before he entered high school, but he really wasn’t sure he even had one then.
“It felt good,” Clinton-Dix said. “I haven’t had a touchdown on defense since little league. I don’t think I had one then. I was excited about that.”
Clinton-Dix picked off the overthrown ball and followed safety Eddie Jackson—his teammate for one season at Alabama—into the end zone.
“On the return all I saw was No. 39,” Clinton-Dix said. “I know he has the best vision in the world and I just kind of followed his jersey number to the end zone.”
After intercepting Keenum on the Redskins’ first possession of the game, Clinton-Dix picked off a deep Keenum throw on Washington’s initial drive of the second half,
“I was reading the quarterback’s eyes and just made a play on the ball,” Clinton-Dix said.
Clinton-Dix was selected by the Packers in the first round of the 2014 draft and remained with Green Bay until late last October when he was traded to the Redskins.
Asked whether his performance Monday night was more special because it came against his former team, Clinton-Dix said: “Hell yeah!
“I have a lot of guys on that team that I love, that I have great relationships with. So anytime you get a chance to compete against your former team, there’s always a little extra on the cake.”
Tough kicker: Eddy Piñeiro was limping noticeably due to a knee injury he sustained in the weight room Saturday. But the Bears kicker fought through the pain, making 1-of-2 field-goal attempts and 4-of-4 extra points.
“It was going back and forth the last couple days,” said coach Matt Nagy. “We didn’t really know. He did well warming up. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do. I had a plan either way. Tabes (special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor) came in and said that [Piñeiro] was kicking the ball pretty well and so he felt good.”
After missing a 44-yard attempt wide right early in the third quarter, Piñeiro drilled a 38-yarder that gave the Bears a 31-15 lead with 1:50 remaining in the game.
“It would have been great to hit that longer field goal,” Nagy said. “But I give him credit for fighting through that and fighting through the pain. He did his job and hit that big field goal at the end.”
Pat O'Donnell handled the kickoff duties in place of Piñeiro, recording three touchbacks on six kickoffs.
Late change: Right tackle Bobby Massie was a surprise inactive due to what Nagy described as a “small case of vertigo.”
“When we got here [to the stadium] and came in he said he wasn’t feeling good,” Nagy said. “So it was, ‘OK, I guess we’ve got to figure something out.’
Massie was replaced by Cornelius Lucas, who has now appeared in 40 games with nine starts in six NFL seasons with the Lions, Raiders, Saints and Bears.
“I want to give credit to Cornelius Lucas for stepping up today on short notice,” Nagy said.
Before Monday night, Massie had started 48 of 50 games since joining the Bears in 2016.
Injury update: Receiver Taylor Gabriel exited Monday night’s game with a concussion after catching six passes for 75 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks also left with a right knee injury that did not appear to be serious.
“I don’t have anything for sure, but I feel he’ll be OK,” Nagy said. “I don’t have anything more than that right now.”
Playing takeaway: The five takeaways the Bears generated Monday night were their most in a game since they also had five Sept. 22, 2013 in a win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
“They come in bunches when they do come,” said linebacker Danny Trevathan, who forced a key fumble that Jackson recovered in the fourth quarter.
Moving the chains: After converting 6-of-26 third-down opportunities (23 percent) in their first two games, the Bears were successful on 8-of-13 (62 percent) Monday night.
“Give credit to our coaches who put a lot of time and energy into trying to scheme plays in that area,” Nagy said. “And then the players executing.”