The Washington Commanders are set to take on the Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football at FedExField. Here are five things to know about their Week 5 opponent.
1. They've had a frustrating start to the season.
To be a Bears fan is a challenging flight. The franchise is aching, with fourteen straight losses between this season and last. In week 4's Sunday Night's Football matchup against the Denver Broncos, they blew a 21-point lead to give them their longest losing streak in franchise history.
Despite finding themselves on sound footing at the beginning of the game, a mixture of lapses from the defense, which allowed back-to-back touchdowns in the second half, and a fumble recovered for a touchdown led to the 31-28 loss. It'll be necessary for the Commanders to be first on the draw and establish an early lead, as Chicago does have an offense with talented players like Justin Fields that kept the Bears in last year's game between the two teams.
And unlike last week, Washington will need to maintain their lead against a team that head coach Ron Rivera described as "hungry to win."
2. Justin Fields can be dynamic with the ball.
Despite the apparent struggles of Chicago's lineup, they've proven to be efficient when Fields has the ball in his hands.
Fields has a quality arm, which he proved with 335 yards and four touchdowns against the Broncos, but he's more dangerous when he uses his legs. His ability to run the ball has not been used much in the game plan so far, as he only has 28 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown, but Washington still needs to be ready for the possibility. That was the case last year, when he had 12 rushes for 88 yards, including a long of 39 yards in the fourth quarter that moved the Bears to Washington's 5-yard line.
Luckily, after having a difficult time against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, the Commanders did a better job of containing Jalen Hurts in their matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. He had nine carries for 34 yards, but most of that came off a 24-yard scramble in the second half. If Washington can maintain their rush discipline up front, they should be in good shape.
The Washington Commanders have begun warming up at Lincoln Financial Field for their Week 4 matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
3. There needs to be more offensive coordination.
While it could be easy to blame the inconsistent and overall lack of scoring efforts on Fields, the Bears' offense as a unit has had its problems through four games.
A major theme for the Bears so far has been a lack of coordination between running backs and wide receivers with Fields. A clear pattern of missed passes through faulty routes was seen between wideout DJ Moore and Fields during Chicago's 41-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Washington will need to capitalize on the Bears' lack of communication throughout the offense and only allow their mistakes to be beneficial for Washington. Being ready for missed routes, something Chicago has been dealing with all season, can equip them for significantly more turnovers than they've seen compared to their previous two games against the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles.
4. More help on the offensive line.
Teven Jenkins, who suffered a leg injury in August, was taken off IR and has been designated to return.
Chicago's offensive line has been an issue since Fields was drafted, and while Jenkins has had injury issues before, he's also been one of the Bears' best weapons when he's on the field. He received the best offensive grade on the team in 2022, according to PFF, and he only allowed two sacks and 12 pressures with an efficiency rating of 97.5.
So far, the Bears are ranked last in run blocking, which is something Jenkins can help to elevate for the team. With Jenkins back in the mix, Washington's defensive line will need to stay on their toes for the variation in playing style compared to Cody Whitehair, who's been filling the position so far this season.
5. The bears are coming to DC hungry.
It may give fans confidence knowing they're facing a 0-4 team, but the Commanders are approaching this week with a more level-headed mentality.
The Bears' losing record means they want and need to win more than ever. It'll be important for Washington to balance their confidence when they head into this matchup. Washington should feel comfortable in its capabilities as a football team, especially after a quality performance against the Eagles. But that confidence can't be paired with a discounting of the Bears' ability to come to FedExField and give the Commanders a tough matchup.
Last year's matchup came down to the final play, as Benjamin St-Juste came up with a critical fourth-down stop at the 1-yard line. That gave Washington enough room to bleed out the clock and come away with a 12-7 win.
Washington's win over the Bears was a turning point for the team in 2022, and the rematch could have the same significance. However, while the Commanders should go into the game expecting to win, just as they do every week, they cannot underestimate Bears team that is looking gain some kind of momentum.