Joniak: Keys To Bears-Redskins

It’s time for the Bears to make some big plays. 

Jeff Joniak
September 23, 2019 - 2:01 pm
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(WBBM Newsradio) The Bears (1-1) are on the road to face the Redskins (0-2) on Monday night at FedEx Field.

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Kickoff comes at 7:15 p.m., and the game can be heard on WBBM Newsradio 780. You can listen to an online stream on desktop computers here.

Here are my keys to the game.

Offense

-- It’s time for the Bears to make some big plays. I don’t care about the math. Yes, Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott sliced up the Redskins, but this is about the Bears. It’s not about how porous the Redskins defense has been to this point.  

-- Much is being written about quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s primetime performances falling short of expectations. If he can find a way to pick up some first downs with his legs or execute a designed keeper for a chunk gain, it might loosen up the defense and give Trubisky some early success to get the offense moving in the right direction.

-- The potential return of third-year defensive end Jonathan Allen would be a huge upgrade to the Redskins' front seven. He and nose tackle Daron Payne play well off each other and are two of the four first-round picks in Washington’s defensive front. They must be blocked.  

-- Expect the Redskins to stack the box and in an attempt to improve against the run. They're 31st in the league allowing 168 rushing yards per game. That's an inviting number for the Bears to exploit. Redskins safety Landon Collins on Bears rookie running back David Montgomery is a matchup to watch if Collins is consistently brought down into the box. 

-- The Bears' playmakers have to help clean up some off-target throws, break some tackles and create some after-contact big plays. Bears coach Matt Nagy is looking for first downs on first downs to create some tempo for Trubisky and rhythm for himself as a play-caller. The Bears need much more in terms of yards per play in both phases for the offense to make an impact.

Defense

-- Redskins running back Adrian Peterson in his current 2019 form isn't what he was in 2007, but since that time, he has rushed for nearly 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns against the Bears. He still has some juice when he gets a head of steam going. Peterson isn't the violent runner he once was, but in a ball-control attack, he could do enough damage to help control the clock and move the chains.  

-- On paper, the Bears' rushing defense against the Redskins' rushing offense is a mismatch. The Redskins are averaging 37.5 rushing yards per game and 2.5 yards per carry, ranking 30th in the NFL in each category. Washington has just four first downs on the grounder. Chicago's defense is allowing less than 69 yards per game on the ground and just 2.98 yards per attempt.

-- One of the best matchups on the interior will be Redskins two-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff against Bears Pro Bowl defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. Both players are 6-foot-5 and more than 300 pounds. Hicks has about 17 pounds on Scherff, and this represents a power-against-technique matchup that's worth watching if you love trench play. Scherff is one of the best pass-blocking guards in the NFL. Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd against the Redskins' offensive tackles is a matchup that the Bears should win, especially if they can get them in second-and-long and third-and-long scenarios.

-- Washington's offense is missing tight Jordan Reed (concussion) but has introduced rookie receiver Terry McLaurin into the mix for big plays. His 4.35 speed has helped him blow by cornerbacks to the tune of 18.5 yards per catch. McLaurin is a favorite of veteran quarterback Case Keenum, who's accurate, protects the ball and takes few sacks. Stopping that combo would help the Bears to limit the big play.

Special teams

-- As of early Monday afternoon, the great unknown for the Bears is the availability of kicker Eddy Pineiro, who's suffering from knee soreness. That could complicate Nagy's decision-making. Pineiro's health could impact everything from kickoffs to field-goal attempts to who holds on field goals to Nagy’s own play-calling.  

-- If Pineiro can't play or is limited, Nagy has a contingency plan that figures to expand his willingness to attempt two-point conversions and fourth downs.

-- After an impressive performance in Denver, Pat O’Donnell needs another one at Fed Ex Field. Field position matters. Washington punter Tress Way is outstanding. The Redskins led the NFL in downed punts last season, and the lefty led the league in punts inside the 20 while also being the only punter in the NFL with no touchbacks.  

Intangibles

-- It was a big day for the NFC North on Sunday, so getting a road win would allow the Bears to keep pace heading into a short week with the stingy Vikings waiting next to visit Soldier Field next Sunday. There's a mental component to this outcome for a Bears team looking to maintain high expectations.  

-- Temperatures were soaring into the 90s here in Landover, Maryland by midday Monday, and an expected game-time temperature of 88 and what appears to be high humidity await. The Bears played in the heat in Denver last week as well. The key will be to not leave the defense on the field for 82 snaps, as it had to endure against the Broncos.  

-- Washington has started quickly in its first two games by scoring a combined 27 points in the first half but has fizzled in the second half, where it owns an average time of possession of just about 10 minutes. It would be nice for the Bears to start fast, grab momentum and maintain control throughout the game to make quick work of the Redskins.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.