Five Things to Watch Thursday

Bear Report is covering the Thursday evening matchup in Week 14 between the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in our nation's capital, and here are the top five things to be on the lookout for that could have a major effect on the final score.

1. Will Portis again rip up the Bears' run defense like he usually does?
Redskins running back Clinton Portis has traditionally torn apart the Bears on the ground, even back when he was still wearing a Broncos uniform. Now's facing a bruised and battered defense that's allowing a ridiculous 130.8 yards per game against the run – 27th in the league. Washington is tied for ninth in rushing at 120.8 yards per game, and Portis can crack the 1,000-yard barrier for the fifth time in six seasons with just 80 yards Thursday evening.

This is a serious mismatch for the Midway Monsters considering they gave up 154 yards – at home, no less – to a journeyman like Derrick Ward just four days ago, so a former Pro Bowler like Portis could be in line for another big day.

2. Can the offensive line piece itself together and keep Grossman alive?
Rex Grossman played pretty well this past Sunday in a losing effort against the Giants, and he did so in the face of constant pressure being applied from all angles. The G-Men got to Grossman six times, and on numerous other occasions he had to flee the pocket or simply get rid of the ball to save his hide. The Redskins don't rush the passer near as well as New York does, which should give Grossman more time to make sound decisions, although Andre Carter does have eight sacks from his right defensive end position.

Left tackle John Tait, who hasn't looked like the same player since offseason ankle surgery, will be charged with the duty of containing Carter off the edge and keeping Grossman upright.

3. When will Turner finally learn how to use Hester properly on offense?


WR Devin Hester
Paul Sakuma/AP Images
Since more and more teams will routinely keep the ball out of Devin Hester's hands in the return game, it's up to offensive coordinator Ron Turner to find a way to get him as many touches as possible on offense. Much was made about Hester's drop of a potential 81-yard touchdown pass from Grossman last week against the Giants, but little was made of Turner not going back to that play at any point despite Hester blowing by both defensive backs with ease and streaking all alone in the secondary. The former cornerback is not polished enough as a receiver to be effective on those quick screens and slants that Turner keeps dialing up, especially since his ability to gain separation down the field is his greatest asset as a wideout right now.

Rashied Davis has produced very little this year and Mark Bradley has done nothing to warrant playing time, which means there are plenty of opportunities to get Hester on the field more often and give enemy defenses more to think about on a play-by-play basis.

4. Is Anderson ever going to be effective defending the run?
Second-year player Mark Anderson has been starting at right defensive end over veteran Alex Brown all season long, but Brown was been getting more snaps the last few weeks because Anderson is still a liability against the run. The Giants continually ran right at Anderson last Sunday, taking advantage of his over-aggressiveness and cutting right underneath him for big chunks of yardage on the ground. And not only has Anderson had trouble racking up tackles, but his sack numbers are way down this season (5) after leading all rookies in that category a year go (12).

Brown is much better suited to be an every-down D-end because he holds the point of attack very well, while Anderson never should have been moved out of his specialty role as a situational pass-rusher.

5. How much of an effect will raw emotion have on this game for both teams?
The Redskins are still dealing with the abrupt loss of safety Sean Taylor, and they were not even able to conduct a full practice this week after attending his memorial service in Miami on Monday. When you combine this with that devastating last-second loss to the Bills at home in Week 13, it's not out of bounds to say that this team has to be an emotional wreck collectively at this juncture. There were many experts around the league who assumed that the Washington organization would petition the NFL to get Thursday's game moved in order to give them the ability to get everyone's bearings straight again, but apparently that never happened.

Former Hurricanes like Portis and receiver Santana Moss are due to be charged up once again at the prospect of dedicating their performance to Taylor, but teams can't win football games at this level on emotion alone.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


  • Is Devin Hester already the greatest return man ever?
  • An interview with running backs coach Tim Spencer
  • Ed "The Claw" Sprinkle: The Oldest Living Bear
  • A look at the autobiography Sayers: My Life and Times
  • Getting to know third-year quarterback Kyle Orton
  • All of that plus much more in the January issue of ...

    BEAR REPORT, the only publication exclusively dedicated to your Chicago Bears ... CLICK HERE to subscribe today


    Bear Report Top Stories