The "How much do you like me now?" quote by Kirk Cousins after trouncing Green Bay a month ago was the latest end-of-game declaration by the Washington quarterback that went viral (see:"You like that?! You LIKE that!!," circa 2015). It came on the sidelines to general manager Scot McCloughan as the team moved to 6-3-1 and Cousins kept stacking up numbers in his bid for a long-term contract after getting franchise-tagged for $20 million this season.
While Cousins had another 300-yard passing game Monday night and didn't necessarily hurt his cause (he'd get $24 million if tagged again this offseason), the Redskins were held below 23 points for just the fourth time, and had their worst offensive output in a 26-15 home defeat to the Carolina Panthers. Suddenly, Washington fell from holding the second NFC Wild Card spot, to eighth, and needs help to get into the postseason for a second consecutive season. Will they be devastated, or angry "elves" on Christmas Eve?
Here's the good news for them: Despite the quick turnaround for Saturday's game at Soldier Field, they have have four days off, not the three they had in having to go on the road to Dallas on Thanksgiving after that Sunday night win over the Packers. They're also not playing on Monday night, where they've now lost 16 of their last 17. And they're playing the Bears, whom they've beaten six straight times, including a 24-21 win on the lakefront a year ago.
Cousins has done his part to earn his payday, and there's no way management can let him go. He's second in the NFL in passing yards, third in completions, fourth in attempts, fifth in completion percentage, sixth in passer rating, and a partridge in a pear tree. The touchdown-to-interception ratio is 23-to-10, even though he was picked off and also fumbled on the opening snap of the second half Monday night (sound familiar to Sunday's Bears game?). One of the league's better offensive lines (which survived four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams' recent four-game suspension for missing a drug test), couldn't get anything going on the ground (13 rushes, 29 yards, with Cousins leading the way via 11 yards on two carries). They were just 2-of-12 on third down (where they still rank fourth in the league). Their 335 net yards were 70 below their third-ranked NFL average. Cousins has been sacked just 18 times.
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That ground game is 18th, as undrafted free agent Robert "Fat Rob" Kelley has rushed for almost 600 yards, though just eight of them came vs. the Panthers, on only nine carries. He burst on the scene in that Green Bay win, with 137 yards on 24 carries after second-year back Matt Jones (460 yards at the time), went down with a knee injury. Chris Thompson offers a change of pace (331 yards rushing, and 42 receptions for 295 yards).
More than Washington's fleet receiving corps, Jordan Reed has done the most damage in his two career games against the Bears (18 targets, 18 catches for 254 yards and a pair of touchdowns). The undersized (6-foot-3, 236 pounds) tight end has been a nightmare for other teams, too, when he's been healthy. He's missed 18 games in his four-year career, including three this season as he now battles through a third-degree separation of a shoulder. He had just one catch last night before being ejected in the third quarter for throwing a punch at Carolina's Kurt Coleman. That came as the offense had finally gotten inside the Panthers' 10-yard line. That left Reed with 61 receptions this season, five for scores.
McCloughan used his first-round draft pick last April on wideout Josh Doctson of TCU, knowing 30-year-olds' DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon will become free agents this offseason. But Doctson had just two catches before an achilles injury that wouldn't go away finally landed him on injured reserve two months ago. That after water bug Jamison Crowder delivered 59 catches a year ago — only Amari Cooper had more receptions among 2015 rookies than the fourth-rounder from Duke. Crowder has surpassed that with 64 grabs (828 yards) and seven touchdowns, to go with Garcon's 71 (851 yards) and the injury-hampered Jackson's 49 (857 yards for a fourth-ranked 17.5-yard average, and four TD's).
So, yes, the Bears defensive backfield will have its hands full Saturday, looking to rebound from the way Sunday's loss ended.