The Commanders won an ugly football game on Thursday Night Football. Here’s what experts are saying about how they got it done.
Fans were calling for Amazon Prime refunds after relatively low-quality iterations of Thursday Night Football across Weeks 5 and 6. Week 6 was a low-scoring game with just 19 points between the Chicago Bears and Washington Commanders.
In a battle of the uglies, the Commanders would come out on top, holding Justin Fields and the Bears to just one touchdown. The Bears had several chances in the red zone but failed to convert on most of them.
Let’s look at what the experts had to say about the ugly game on Thursday night, starting with a few positives for the Bears before we jump into the all-too-real negatives for the Bears (but positives, or at least neutrals, for the Commanders).
Matt Eberfleus thinks Justin Fields played well
As relayed by ESPN, Matt Eberfleus was pleased with some of the growth Justin Fields showed:
“I think he took a step forward, I really do,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “The toughness. For me, the ability to take the ball and drive it down at the very end, to give us a chance to win it — that’s to me what was the improvement. Were there other moments that we need to clean up and the offense needs to clean up? Sure. But we had the drives down there, and if we punch those in, the game’s a different game.”
Despite the L, Roquan Smith played well for Bears
Michael Labellarte at Bear Goggles On included Roquan Smith in his winner list for Week 6:
There was a little more blitzing in this game than we have seen in past weeks, most likely because of how banged up the Commanders’ offensive line is and how poor Carson Wentz plays under pressure. Smith had a sack today in the first quarter on a linebacker blitz, and Jaquan Brisker also had a sack blitzing from the box safety position.
The Bears will need this type of performance from Roquan weekly to make up for the struggles of the secondary and the defensive line. He has a heavy burden to carry as the best player on the defense, but he shows consistently he can handle it, even with the Carson Wentz pancake block.
The defense was the key for Washington Commanders success
The Washington Post looked at two keys to a win for the Commanders after the Week 6 win, both coming on the defensive side. From Sam Fortier:
There seemed to be two keys Thursday. The first was the new combination of defensive backs. After benching cornerback William Jackson III last week — he didn’t travel with the team and was the subject of trade rumors Thursday — the Commanders moved St-Juste outside. In the nickel subpackage, Rachad Wildgoose played slot corner, and in the big nickel, Kam Curl moved from safety to slot, and Darrick Forrest played safety.
The second was defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s game plan. In film study, players said, they noticed Bears quarterback Justin Fields struggled to identify coverages and to progress through multiple reads. They wanted to stop the run — Chicago offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s preference — and force him to ask Fields to throw. If they covered well even briefly, they could generate pressure and force Fields to scramble.
Red zone defense, in particular, was huge for Commanders
CBS Sports looked at the importance of stops in the red zone to keep the Bears to just seven points.
The Bears scored just seven points on Thursday night. It should have been more, but this Commanders defense held strong with its backs to the wall, and with the game on the line. Chicago had four chances to gain 5 yards and win the game in the fourth quarter, but it was unable to. Darrick Forrest broke up a pass in the end zone on third-and-goal, and then Benjamin St-Juste called game on fourth-and-goal with his defensive stop. We’ll talk about that a little bit later.
Another perspective suggests red zone offense for Bears was atrocious
Jacob Infante of Windy City Gridiron liked what he saw from the Bears offense in the first 80 yards, but the red zone was just too ugly:
The fact of the matter is that the Bears simply didn’t execute when it mattered most. Their performance within the first 80 yards wasn’t all that bad, but their performance in the last 20 yards — the most important 20 — was abysmal. One can only hope that the coaching staff and the players learn from this performance and make changes.
Biggest play for the Commanders? A punt
NBC Sports Washington included the big special team play from Tress Way in its stock up/down report.
Washington’s biggest play of the night came on a punt. Way put one deep into Bears territory and the returner let the ball bounce of his helmet before Washington rookie Christian Holmes pounced on the ball for the recovery. That led to the go-ahead touchdown run by rookie Brian Robinson and Washington just did hold on. Their punter had a lot to do with the win.
That’s all for this Thursday. Next week’s TNF is between the Saints and Cardinals.