Bears Grades: Matt Barkley interceptions doom Bears in 20-point loss to Redskins

Bears Grades: Matt Barkley interceptions doom Bears in 20-point loss to Redskins

Matt Barkley began the game as a subject of discussion with respect to how far up the Bears’ 2017 depth chart the young quarterback might rise. He finished it the day with five interceptions, meaning nine turnovers in his last 16 possessions, and not quite as ripe a prospect as quite a few had hoped.

“Everyone wants to look at the quarterback, which he sometimes deserves, sometimes not,” said coach John Fox.

The offense generated 458 total yards and 21 points, with Barkley passing for 323 yards. It marked the third time in five starts that Barkley has topped 300 yards (all losses, all with at least two interceptions) and the fifth time this season the offense has netted more than 400 yards and the fourth time in five starts that that the Bears have scored 21 or more points behind Barkley.

Quarterback: F-

Matt Barkley’s pattern of calming down and putting the pedal down in second halves of games came to an appalling end Saturday. He threw an interception on each of the Bears’ four possessions of the second half, and his five interceptions matched the total put up by Jay Cutler at San Francisco in 2009.

Barkley’s throw into triple coverage toward Josh Bellamy on the first play of the second quarter was a disaster, intercepted to end a promising drive by turning football over unnecessarily. He was nearly intercepted a series later when he locked onto Alshon Jeffery on a quick throw that was telegraphed.

The Barkley mistakes continued in the third quarter when he tried to get off a throw as he was going down to a sack. But the throw had nothing on it and was intercepted by cornerback Josh Norman in Washington territory to squander a potential scoring opportunity. Barkley began the fourth quarter by badly overthrowing Jeffery and being intercepted by Washington safety Will Blackmon and returned 75 yards to set up a score.

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Barkley showed some pocket awareness early, sensing pressure but not panicking deep into plays. But his play deteriorated and his fundamentals broke down as he forced throws and appeared rattled at times despite being under only moderate pressure, sacked once and hit one other time.

“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Barkley said. “It’s kind of one you want to forget. ... It’s just that the glaring mistakes stand out and those are the ones that hurt.”

Barkley finished with 24-of-40 passing, two touchdown passes but five interceptions and a 62.8 passer rating, his lowest among his five starts.

Running back: B

Jordan Howard put up his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the year (119), albeit with some garbage-time rushing yards after the Bears were down three scores in the second half. With his nine receiving yards, Howard’s 128 yards from scrimmage marked the 10th time in 12 NFL starts that Howard has netted more than 100 total yards.

Howard did deliver repeated runs getting to the second level for double-digit yardage gains and averaged 6.6 yards on his 18 carries. Howard had four runs of 10 yards or longer.

“As a team we don’t care what our record is,” Howard said. “We might be losing but we’re going to come back and fight and give it our best shot.”

Jeremy Langford punched in from a yard out for the Bears’ first touchdown.

Receivers: C

Wideouts and tight ends accounted for 22 receptions, led by Cam Meredith’s nine for 135 yards. But receivers in multiple situations appeared to be lackadaisical in chances to break up balls that were intercepted and cut short on routes.

Alshon Jeffery gave the offense a spark with a leaping grab over Washington cornerback Josh Norman for 67 yards late in the second quarter, which was followed by Meredith working free in the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown.

Meredith delivered a tough catch for a 21-yard gain after a hold negated a first-down run in the first quarter. He later took a slant 32 yards with yards after the catch and had the 21-yard catch for the Bears’ first TD.

“I think for the most part we were moving the ball, making plays,” said Meredith, whose game was his second straight and fourth this season with 100 receiving yards. “We were just shooting ourselves in the foot.”

[RELATED: Bears Grades: Defense shredded in second straight 400-yard mauling]

Josh Bellamy had little chance to catch the first Barkley pass in the second quarter but failed to do the No. 2 thing of making sure an opponent didn’t. Bellamy did not break the pass up and Washington intercepted it to end a scoring chance.

Offensive line: B+

Washington committed early to stopping the run and the O-line was able to provide provide adequate pass protection for the most part in addition to opening enough creases for 138 rushing yards by backs.

Josh Sitton was flagged for holding to nullify a successful screen pass in the third quarter. The setback put the Bears in a passing situation, with Barkley being intercepted on the next play.

But Matt Barkley was sacked only once and hit one other play. The problems at quarterback were not protection-induced.

Coaching: D

The energy level of the team is open to debate, although hard to measure. The Bears did not appear to be playing with the same urgency and intensity as previous games, but had a chance to pull within one score on the first possession of the third quarter and didn’t when a Matt Barkley pass was intercepted.

Mistakes ultimately are made by players on the field but coaching decisions continue to be puzzling, particularly for an offense that is using a first-time starter with little NFL experience. The Bears remain a pass-heavy offense, including passing twice inside the Washington 5-yard line in the first quarter, after reaching that point on two Jordan Howard runs totaling 28 yards. The Bears then settled for a field-goal try, which was blocked.

“It wasn’t frustrating to me,” Howard said. “I just go with whatever the coach calls. I’m always going to have faith in whatever he calls is going to work.”

The failed throws did not mean poor planning, in John Fox’s opinion. “Hindsight is 20/20, let’s make that totally clear,” Fox said. “I think we did the same on a later drive and scored a touchdown. Sometimes it’s what the defense is doing and what we are capable of in our matchups. It comes down to execution, not just what play it is.”

Chris Simms says Bears are a dangerous team entering Week 15

Chris Simms says Bears are a dangerous team entering Week 15

The Bears have completely flipped the narrative of their 2019 season over the last three weeks, thanks in large part to Matt Nagy's offense finally resembling the 202-level that was promised last summer.

It may have taken quarterback Mitch Trubisky a little longer than expected to arrive this year, but if his last two games are an indication of his development in his second season under Nagy's tutelage, the Bears have a bonafide quarterback. And it's been a while since that could be said.

"Mitchell Trubisky is hot, there's no doubt about it," NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms said Thursday. "He seems so much more comfortable. Decisive. He's accurate with the football. Running around at the proper time. I don't think it was all Mitchell Trubisky's fault with the struggles of the offense, either."

Those struggles spanned the first half of 2019 when Chicago seemed incapable of sustaining drives or scoring points. It began with Week 1's three-point output against the Packers and continued through Thanksgiving Day when Trubisky finally got his mojo back, throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions.

With Trubisky clicking, and the running game receiving a jolt from rookie David Montgomery's productive back-to-back weeks (in which he's averaged more than four yards per carry in successive games for the first time all year), the Bears appear capable of beating just about anyone. 

They'll need to. If Chicago wants to keep their weak playoff pulse going, they have to win out. And that includes games against the Packers, Chiefs and Vikings. 

The odds seem stacked against them, and it's their own fault. It took way too long to get the offense going, but it's better late than never. 

According to Simms, the Bears are that team no one wants to play.

"They're a dangerous team right now. They really are."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Bears QB Big Board, 6.0: It's Mitch Trubisky's job to lose

Just when it appeared like Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky was entering his final half-season as the team's unquestioned starting quarterback, the last month happened.

Trubisky's play has steadily improved over the last five games and reached what may have been his watermark moment in Week 14 against the Cowboys. He completed 74% of his passes for 244 yards and three passing touchdowns while adding a season-high 63 rushing yards and a score on the ground. It marked the second week in a row that Trubisky's completed over 74% of his passes; he connected on 76% of his throws a week earlier against the Lions.

Trubisky's recent success is a far cry from the mentally broken player he was after the first month of the season. He has his confidence back. In fact, he's playing with more confidence than he's ever shown as a pro. His recent success is a direct and obvious result of his evolution between the ears.

The Bears were circled as a team that was likely to be in the quarterback market this offseason because of how terrible Trubisky looked early in 2019. And there's still a chance that GM Ryan Pace will look to add some healthy competition to the roster, but if Trubisky continues to play well, that competition will be for the backup job. 

It's also worth noting that one of the more appealing quarterback targets this offseason probably won't make it to the open market. Titans starter Ryan Tannehill continues to enjoy a remarkable comeback season and appears destined to sign a long-term extension with Tennessee sooner than later. After Tannehill, the discount quarterback rack includes names like Andy Dalton and Marcus Mariota, players who a month ago would've been viewed as marked upgrades over Trubisky.

It doesn't feel like that's the case anymore.

Barring a massive regression from Trubisky over the next three games, it's starting to feel like he's winning back Chicago's confidence one game at a time. 

With all that in mind, here's the updated Bears QB Big Board entering Week 15:

Bears QB Big Board (Dec. 12, 2019)

1. Mitch Trubisky (Bears)
previous: 2 (Dec. 3)

2. Andy Dalton (Bengals)
previous: 1 (Dec. 3)

3. Ryan Tannehill (Titans)
previous: 3  (Dec. 3)

4. Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma)
previous: 4 (Dec. 3)

5. Marcus Mariota (Titans)
previous: 5 (Dec. 3)

6. Teddy Bridgewater (Saints)
previous: 6 (Dec. 3)

Outside looking in (list cut down to three)...

-Jake Fromm (Georgia)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

-Jameis Winston (Buccaneers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

- Cam Newton (Panthers)
previous: outside looking in (Dec. 3)

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.