Game Preview: Redskins vs. Bears

Scout.com's NFL experts analyze Sunday's game.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
GAMEDATE: 9/11/05
SURFACE: Grass
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa
SERIES: 45th meeting. Bears lead 23-20-1. Bears and Redskins met in four NFL title games from 1937-43, with each team winning twice.
*2004 rankings: Bears: offense 32nd (25th rush, 32nd pass); defense 21st (25th rush, 15th pass). Redskins: offense 30th (21st rush, 29th pass); defense 3rd (2nd rush, 7th pass)

PREDICTION: Redskins 16-13

KEYS TO THE GAME: Turnovers and special teams could mark the difference between two teams with solid defenses going against unproven quarterbacks. The Bears are going with rookie QB Kyle Orton, and the Redskins will do everything they can to stuff RB Thomas Jones and stick Orton in long passing situations. The Bears must utilize the short passing game and get Orton comfortable early. Chicago's talented young defense was torched for 171 rushing yards by Redskins RB Clinton Portis this season. The Bears need to jump on QB Patrick Ramsey's mistakes if they hope to win, but that can't happen until they prove they can handle Portis. If Ramsey gets into the flow, look for the Redskins to try a few deep shots to speed WRs Santana Moss and David Patten.

FAST FACTS: Bears: Orton will be the 27th change at quarterback in the Bears' past 92 games. ... Forty wins in season openers is tied with the Giants for the most in the NFL. Redskins: Joe Gibbs needs four victories to join Marty Schottenheimer (182) and Bill Parcells (165) as the only active coaches with 150. ... Portis aims to become first player to have 150 rushing yards in each of his first three meetings with the Bears.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Bears:
--DT Tommie Harris walked off the practice field Wednesday with a slight limp, but he was back Thursday without restrictions and is not listed on the injury report.

--CB Rashied Davis was third in the NFC with a 13.5-yard punt-return average, but the Bears have refused to proclaim him the starter at that spot for Sunday.

--WR Bobby Wade, who seems to have been surpassed on the depth chart by Justin Gage, Mark Bradley and Bernard Berrian, is still in contention for the punt-return job after averaging 11.9 yards in the preseason, including a 54-yard TD.

--DE Adewale Ogunleye tied for the preseason NFL lead in sacks with four. He had five in an injury-plagued campaign last season after leading the AFC with 15 in 2003.

--P Brad Maynard participated in only one preseason game because of a strained right calf, but he is not listed on the injury report and said he's completely recovered.

Redskins:
--RT Jon Jansen practiced with a padded cast to protect the left thumb he fractured during Monday's practice and will start on Sunday.

--WR Taylor Jacobs took part in a third straight practice after missing four weeks with a sprained left big toe. Although not 100 percent, Jacobs has a shot of being active on Sunday.

--SS Ryan Clark missed a third straight practice after re-injuring his sprained knee in last Thursday's preseason finale at Baltimore. Clark is all but out for Sunday.

--OLB Chris Clemons missed a third straight practice after straining a hamstring last Thursday against the Ravens and is all but out.

--SS Matt Bowen took part in a third straight practice after missing a week with a badly bruised chest and should start against the Bears.

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Bears:
It's not a stretch to say the Bears' success this season will depend greatly on the play of the defensive line.

Left to right, Adewale Ogunleye, Tommie Harris, Ian Scott and Alex Brown are being counted on as the cornerstone of the defense, and the defense is being counted on to carry the team. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera says the line is capable of great things as a group, but it still has a lot to prove.

"What we've seen are flashes," Rivera said. "We haven't seen it for a whole game. Have we seen glimpses? Absolutely. Is it cause to be excited? Absolutely."

The Bears were No. 12 in preseason points allowed and No. 3 in rushing yards permitted, and it started up front. Last season they were No. 25 in rushing yards allowed.

"I'm pretty excited about the fact that we've got some guys who have really developed," Rivera said. "You go back and compare them from last year 'til now, the development to me has been great. There's still a good ways to go; I still think a lot of our young guys have some growing to do. But that's the exciting part. The potential of this defense can be staggering if we can stay healthy and we can get off to a fast start."

The Redskins present the ideal opportunity. Their offense ranked 30th last season in total yards, 29th in passing yards and 31st in points.

Redskins:
Somewhat lost in all the focus on whether quarterback Patrick Ramsey can finally consistently get the job done for the Redskins is how new receivers Santana Moss and David Patten will perform beginning in Sunday's opener against a tough Chicago defense.

Patten, 31, led the Redskins in preseason with eight catches for 157 yards, including a 46-yarder against Cincinnati, However, the former New England wideout he has only caught more than 44 passes in two of his eight seasons.

Moss had five catches for 97 yards this summer, including a 40-yarder in which he gained 24 yards after the grab. At 26, Moss has more upside than Patten, but he dropped from 74 catches in 2003, when he became a starter for the New York Jets, to 45 last season.

The receivers they're replacing, Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner, averaged 86 and 57 catches, respectively, as Redskins.

Washington coach Joe Gibbs defends the moves to the faster but smaller Patten and Moss because, unlike Coles and Gardner, they want to be Redskins, and because they make big plays.

Indeed, Moss (18.6 yards per catch) and Patten (18.2) were second and third in average yards per catch among NFL receivers with at least 35 receptions in 2004, and both continued to get deep in preseason. Patten (19.6) edged Moss (19.4) in yards per catch.

Ramsey is still struggling with adjusting to the speed of his new receivers, and their production will probably be more quality than quantity compared to their predecessors. But after Coles and Gardner combined for only five catches of more than 30 yards in 2004, the Redskins are dying for some of that quality.


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