Photos from the Bears-Redskins game at Soldier Field on Dec. 24, 2016.
10 thoughts after the Washington Redskins trounced the Chicago Bears 41-21 on Saturday at Soldier Field, sending them to their 12th defeat of the season.
1. It was after the fourth interception of the game for Matt Barkley that Greg Gabriel, the Bears’ former college scouting director, took to Twitter and wrote, “I rest my case!”
Gabriel has been emphatic that Barkley is not a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL and he hasn’t minced words on the issue in appearances on WSCR-AM 670 as well as in articles he’s written. Barkley had a brutal game, completing 24 of 40 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns but he threw five interceptions, something turnover-prone Jay Cutler accomplished only once all the way back in 2009 in a Thursday night loss at San Francisco.
Barkley’s first interception was a head scratcher. He had just hit Cam Meredith for a 21-yard gain to move into Redskins’ territory at the 49-yard line. The Bears had two tight ends in the game and ran a play fake to Jeremy Langford before Barkley let it rip deep to Josh Bellamy. The problem is Bellamy was surrounded by cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Josh Norman and safety Donte Whitner. It was a throw into triple coverage for Bellamy, the guy with a case of the dropsies ever since Barkley became the starter back on Nov. 27 against the Titans. Shame on offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains for the play call, but Barkley is the one that uncorked the pass that was easily intercepted by Breeland at the 1. Despite being backed up, the Redskins turned the interception into three points and a 17-0 lead. It was that kind of day for the Bears’ D and Barkley.
Later, Barkley was under duress and made a desperate late fling over the middle to avoid a sack. Problem was Norman was the only player in the area and he intercepted. He was intercepted again by Norman and by Will Blackmon throwing in the direction of Jeffery. It was lousy all the way around.
“You can just see the excitement on the sideline,”Breeland said. “It was like every time he threw a pass past 15 yards, it was like, ‘Oh, who’s got this one?’”
It was the first time the Redskins intercepted five passes in a game since 1992. Norman and Breeland had two each and according to the Washington Post it’s the first time the team has had two players with two picks in a game since at least 1960.
“Matt Barkley kept throwing the ball,” said Norman, who claimed he was disrespected by the Bears. “I ain’t had that many opportunities all year, and when he did, I was like, shoot, I was not going to make a mistake and let him just keep doing what he wanted to do.”
This isn’t meant to knock Barkley’s game because I wrote in a mailbag after each of his previous four starts that he didn’t look like a starting-caliber option to me. Plenty of folks out there argued against me, clinging to this idea that the franchise that was founded in 1920 and has seldom got the quarterback position right had suddenly stumbled on to a player that could solve the club’s biggest problem. Barkley kept the Bears in losses to the Titans, Lions and Packers and led them to a victory over the wretched 49ers. Heck, it would have been two wins had the aforementioned Bellamy not dropped an easy touchdown in the end zone against Tennessee.
But five starts in Barkley has a completion percentage of 58.9 percent (would be higher if there weren’t a lot of drops) and 12 interceptions in 202 attempts. Brian Hoyer had zero interceptions in 200 attempts. Barkley’s arm strength is a tick below average and he’s not particularly mobile. He’s probably got a chance to carve out a role for himself in the NFL for seasons to come. He’s got a little moxie and is sharp. But to think that he can solve the Bears’ issues at the quarterback position and they can therefore devote resources (draft picks and money) to the many other positions in need of upgrades, well, that was foolish thinking.
After the fifth pick, Gabriel tweeted, “Put in Fales.”
Coach John Fox made it clear after the game backup David Fales was not an option on Saturday and will not be an option this coming week as the Bears prepare for the Vikings. Barkley shouldn’t be an option for 2017 unless the Bears are sorting through options for a No. 2 or No. 3.
2. I don’t think Cameron Meredith is ever going to be in the discussion as a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver and reality is he might be a No. 3 or No. 4 in a really good passing attack. But he’s done something impressive this year and he just might lead the Bears in some key categories with only one game remaining. Meredith played in 11 games as an undrafted rookie free agent from Illinois State last season and managed to catch 11 passes for 120 yards. It’s one thing for UDFAs to make a splash. It’s another thing for them to break through that low ceiling and really begin to produce. You will see UDFAs make plays on occasion. You start to get excited about them and then they just tend to disappear. That’s what happens with the majority of them really. They’re undrafted for a reason. But Meredith has gone far above and beyond that, turning in nine receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown. He leads the team with 62 receptions (11 ahead of Alshon Jeffery) and is also tops in yardage with 827 (16 ahead of Jeffery). Meredith and injured tight end Zach Miller lead the team with four receiving touchdowns. Meredith also has a team-high four 100-yard games.
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