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2023 NFL season, Week 5: What We Learned from Bears' win over Commanders on Thursday night

Chicago Bears
2023 · 1-4-0
Washington Commanders
2023 · 2-3-0


  1. Bears turn in emotional victory on somber day. On a somber day for Bears fans mourning the loss of Dick Butkus, the team honored Butkus by setting the early tone of the game with spirit and purpose. The Bears took control of the game with their most aggressive game plan of the season, leading 27-3, looking nothing like the team that stumbled to its 14th straight loss four days ago. Things got a little dicey in the second half as the Commanders fought back and the Bears were struck with a slew of mid-game injuries. They were down to zero healthy running backs at game’s end when Khalil Herbert couldn’t continue, and they also lost center Lucas Patrick. But unlike last week, the Bears didn’t crack late -- they held firm and earned a gutsy, emotional victory on the road. The offense did just enough to finish it off. The secondary got huge plays from Elijah Hicks, Greg Stroman and Terell Smith, who have been thrust into major roles. Embattled head coach Matt Eberflus and Bears fans alike should enjoy this one. If anyone deserves it, it’s them.
  2. Commanders defense in tatters. Entering the season, the Commanders were touting a defense that was at times very good last season and had many of its parts back -- plus a few shiny new ones. But to this point of the season, the results -- since Week 1, anyway -- have been pretty awful. That’s now four straight opponents scoring 30-plus points against this defense. The 2022 unit, which wasn’t vastly different personnel-wise, allowed only two opponents to score 30 or more all last season. Sure, Chase Young and Montez Sweat were early pass-rushing presences Thursday, but there were countless breakdowns in coverage, the tackling was poor and the overall effort and attention to detail was lacking. The halftime effort was far better, although the Commanders did catch a break with the Bears suffering numerous offensive injuries, including three running backs. They also had no plan for DJ Moore. Justin Fields completed passes to only three different Bears, but the Commanders couldn’t stop it, as rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes struggled again, as did the normally reliable Kendall Fuller.
  3. DJ Moore’s big game got the Bears rolling fast. Prior to last week, Moore’s early usage with the Bears was a bit curious. That wasn’t the case Sunday, however, and he kept things rolling Thursday. The Bears tried deep shots to Moore on two of their first three plays on the opening drive, hitting on the second for Chicago’s longest play of the season -- 58 yards. It set the tone for the night, as Moore would add grabs of 20, 39, 32 and 56 yards en route to a career-high 230 yards and three TDs. Simply put, he was the best player on the field Thursday night. Moore broke the Thursday Night Football record for receiving yards, but could have had even more. The one big missed connection between Fields and Moore came early in the fourth, when Fields just overthrew him for what should have been a fourth touchdown.
  4. Sam Howell battled late but paid for Commanders’ early sins. It has been a roller-coaster experience for Howell as Washington’s starting quarterback, flashing some really high highs and also some frustrating lows. Thursday night’s performance had more of the former, but just enough of the latter -- with some help from his friends -- to come up short. The Bears took away deep shots early, which tested Howell’s patience during a rough start, and he nearly was intercepted just before the Commanders got on the board with a field goal at 17-3. After the Bears made it 20-3, Howell was picked, as he was late getting back to the crossing route in his progression. The Bears scored a TD just before the half, so those points were on the QB. But as he has all season, Howell battled. He completed 16 straight passes at one point in the second half and was gutting it out all night as a scrambler, slipping and shredding his way through would-be tackles. But Howell also hung on too long a few times and took five sacks, hurting his team’s chances of coming back after it had cut it to a 10-point game with 10-plus minutes left.
  5. The “Riverboat” nickname needs to be scuttled. After last week’s extra-point situation at game’s end, allowing the game to go to overtime (where Washington lost), Ron Rivera did not summon his old daring of yore in a critical point of this game. The Commanders came out strong in the third quarter, cutting the Bears’ lead to 27-11 after a three-minute TD drive and a two-point conversion. After a Bears three-and-out, the momentum had shifted. Howell led Washington on a gutsy drive, converting a few wild first downs. Yet on fourth-and-2 from the Chicago 13-yard line, Rivera opted to kick the field goal, turning a two-score game into a … two-score game. At that point, what’s the difference -- 16 points versus 13? You go for it there -- the old Rivera, the guy who earned that nickname, would have. The fans let him know they disagreed with the decision. It felt like a wasted drive, with Howell taking a beating. The Bears of course kicked their own field goal, and added a late TD. But the game takes on a different tone if it’s, let’s say, 27-19 with more than three minutes left in the third quarter.

Next Gen stat of the game: Justin Fields is the only player in the NFL to throw a touchdown on short (0-9 air yards), intermediate (10-19 air yards) and deep (20+ air yards) attempts in multiple games this season. Only players with one such game are Jared Goff and Kirk Cousins.

NFL Research: DJ Moore is the first Bears player in the Super Bowl era with 200-plus receiving yards and three or more receiving TDs in the same game. The last Bears player to do so was Harlon Hill in Week 6 of the 1954 season.

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