In addition to losing Thursday night's game, the Bears lost a starting quarterback and any realistic hopes for a playoff berth. But they discovered two more offensive weapons in Devin Hester and Garrett Wolfe.
The Bears – as usual – remain mum on the severity of Rex Grossman's knee injury, but sources have indicated that he suffered a partially torn MCL (medial collateral ligament) that could be healed in about a month. That leaves only Brian Griese and Kyle Orton at quarterback, and Orton could get a start as soon as next Monday night against the Vikings. Both should benefit from an offense that became a lot more diverse in the loss to the Redskins, as Hester and Wolfe made their most consistent contributions all season on offense.
While Hester remains a constant home run threat as a return specialist, he had just nine receptions all season before catching five passes for 67 yards at FedEx Field – all in the final 12 minutes of the game.
"We know what Devin can do with the ball, and we've been trying to get him out there and get him involved more," Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "He's one of our playmakers. We have to continue to bring him along, and we definitely have to get him in there."
Hester caught four passes for 58 yards on the first possession of the fourth quarter, and the fourth grab got the Bears within a yard of the end zone where he was pushed out of bounds before he could reach the ball over the goal line with a head-long dive.
But instead of finishing the drive and tying the game at 17-17, the Bears wound up settling for a field goal after three unsuccessful shots at the end zone.
"It's first-and-goal on the one, and we've got a chance to score there," Turner said. "You tie it up, and it's a different ballgame. You have to finish the drive and put it in the end zone, and we didn't do it."
The 24-16 loss didn't leave Hester in much of a mood to celebrate what could be a breakout game as a wide receiver.
"To sit here and talk about me getting the ball on offense, that really doesn't matter because we didn't come out with a 'W,'" he said. "That's the most important thing on our minds. We're just trying to win games."
Whether it's Griese or Orton running the offense in the final three games, Hester should be a frequent target even if he doesn't always seem to be on the same page as the quarterback as he continues to learn the playbook. When opponents blitz as much as the Redskins did, getting the ball to Hester quickly is an effective counter move.
"I felt really comfortable throwing the ball to him, and I was trying to get him the ball in space," Griese said. "When you're facing pressure like that, you have to be able to manage the pressure but you also have to be able to beat the pressure. I was trying to get him the ball in space and let him break a few tackles and make a play. I thought he played well."
As for Wolfe, he caught his first four passes of the season for 37 yards, all on the final possession, and added 13 yards on three runs, occasionally showing the ability to make tacklers miss – a rarity for Bears running backs this season. On his last six carries, Wolfe has picked up 42 yards for a 7.0-yard average.
NOTES & QUOTES
When the Vikings rolled over the Bears for 311 rushing yards in Week 6, including 224 by Adrian Peterson, the run defense plummeted from No. 12 to No. 26. And it has stayed right around there ever since, dipping to No. 27 the past two weeks.
S Brandon McGowan
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Images
There hasn't been any one reason for the demise according to defensive coordinator Bob Babich, who is more interested in fixing the problems than assigning blame.
"I think it's a combination of things," Babich said. "As we go through and look at the cut-ups from this season, we're going to be very disappointed in a number of things. But we can't dwell on that right now. What we've got to do is try to fix the problem. We've got to make sure as coaches we're getting it done, starting with me."
The emphasis on improvement was stepped up this week in preparation for the Redskins, who came in ranked ninth in the league in rushing yards led by Clinton Portis, whose 920 rushing yards were fourth in the NFC.
"Washington's going to come out and run the ball with the short week and the things that they've been dealing with," Babich predicted. "And we've got to be able to stop it."
The Bears won that battle, holding Portis to 36 yards on 17 carries and a 2.1-yard average and limiting the Redskins to just 31 rushing yards as a team on 24 attempts. …
With Rex Grossman expected to miss the remainder of the season, the Bears will have an opportunity to evaluate Kyle Orton, who hasn't played in a regular-season game in almost two years. The question is: When?
"I don't know," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "We don't make those decisions right after games. We'll talk about it and see where we are. I've got a lot of confidence in Kyle. He had a really good preseason and training camp. I think Kyle's going to be a real good player in this league."
Orton's opportunity could come as soon as the next game, a week from Monday against the Vikings.
"I'll be ready to go," Orton said. "I don't know if it's going to happen or not, but when it does happen, I feel like I'm ready and confident, and I can play well." …
Rookie running back Garrett Wolfe has always had to overcome the negative assumptions that come with his lack of size.
"Some people may have a [negative] opinion about me," said the 5-foot-7, 186-pound Wolfe. "Some people may feel that I'll never pan out. But I feel that there are more people who are really supportive of me and my career and who hope I'll do well than those who aren't."
Wolfe caught his first four passes of the season Thursday night for 37 yards and rushed for 13 yards on three attempts.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
REPORT CARD VS. REDSKINS
PASSING OFFENSE: D-plus – A miserable start got better in the second half, but there were too many missed opportunities in the red zone. Starter Rex Grossman suffered a left knee injury early that is expected to end his season. Backup Brian Griese threw two first-half interceptions but wound up passing for 295 yards. WR Bernard Berrian had a pair of highlight-film catches, one for 35 yards over Shawn Springs and another for a 16-yard touchdown.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D-minus – Adrian Peterson managed 35 yards on 17 carries with a long gain of seven yards. More than anything, he made injured Cedric Benson look more valuable than he had while he was playing. Rookie Garrett Wolfe showed flashes of elusiveness in limited duty.
PASS DEFENSE: F – Rusty Todd Collins hadn't thrown a pass since 2004, but he carved up the Bears for 224 yards on 15-of-20 passing and two touchdowns with a passer rating of 144.6 in relief of injured started Jason Campbell. RB Clinton Portis and TE Chris Cooley, who was wide open on several occasions, did most of the damage.
RUSH DEFENSE: A – Clinton Portis was held to 36 yards on 17 carries with a long gain of seven yards, and the Redskins had 31 total rushing yards on 24 attempts for a 1.3-yard average.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C – Devin Hester didn't provide any fireworks when he was given the occasional opportunity, but the Bears were also excellent in coverage, and Robbie Gould converted three chip-shot field goals but had a 48-yard attempt partially blocked.
COACHING: D – Once again the Bears seemed incapable of handling pass-rush pressure, but that could have more to do with a lousy offensive line than poor coaching. Play-calling was partly to blame for a botched series after the offense had a first-and-goal in the first quarter. Trying to run Adrian Peterson wide on first down was a horrible idea. He lost three yards.
All of that plus much more in the January issue of ...
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