Bears

Kirk Cousins leads way as Redskins pound Bears

Kirk Cousins leads way as Redskins pound Bears

CHICAGO (AP) — Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins knew they needed help if they are going to make the playoffs for the second straight year.

A dominant victory didn't change that.

Cousins threw for a touchdown and ran for two more, and the Redskins gave their fading playoff hopes a boost with a 41-21 victory over the Chicago Bears on Saturday.

DeSean Jackson added 114 yards receiving, and Washington (8-6-1) intercepted Matt Barkley five times in an easy victory.

"There was a sense of urgency," Cousins said. "There always is, though."

The Redskins still need help to get to the playoffs. But after relinquishing control of the second wild card with a loss to Carolina on Monday night, they bounced back in a big way. They close out the season at home against the New York Giants next week, and there's no need to remind Jackson how big that game will be.

"Our backs are against the wall," he said. "It's kind of been against the wall the past couple of weeks. As long as we take advantage of our opportunities to do what we need to do to win a football game."

Eighth in the NFC behind Green Bay and Tampa Bay coming into Saturday's game and with a chance to get eliminated from contention, Washington scored 14 points in the first quarter after struggling to score early in recent games and never really was threatened by the Bears (3-12).

Cousins — shaky against Carolina — was 18 of 29 for 270 yards. He threw a 17-yard touchdown to Chris Thompson in the first quarter and scored on a 9-yard run in the second. He also pushed in from the 1 late in the third to make it 31-14.

Jackson had a 57-yard reception , but left after he got hit in the jaw while blocking in the third quarter. He said he could have stayed in, but coach Jay Gruden took a cautious approach.

Pierre Garcon caught four passes for 94 yards.

Thompson had a rushing touchdown in the first quarter to go with his scoring catch. Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland each had two interceptions, and the Redskins won their seventh straight against Chicago.

[MORE BEARS-REDSKINS: Bears collapse at QB, in multiple areas during beatdown by Redskins]

About the only good news for the Bears was there weren't many fans watching. They distributed 57,953 tickets and 39,837 people showed up.

Barkley's five interceptions matched the second-highest total in Bears history and were the most since Jay Cutler threw five against San Francisco on Nov. 12, 2009.

"I feel on some plays I tried to win the game on that play, tried to do too much," he said. "And those are just times when you have to eat it and live to see another play."

Cameron Meredith added 135 yards receiving and Alshon Jeffery had 92. Jordan Howard ran for 119 yards, but the Bears gave up a season high in yards for the second straight week. This time, Washington went off for 478 after Green Bay racked up 451.

The best the Bears can do now is finish 4-12 and match their worst record since 2002. The last time they won fewer than four games in a non-strike year was when they went 3-11 in 1973.

"Lot of things in that game that we could have done better," defensive end Akiem Hicks said. "Seems to be the story of the year."

Bears roster lacks veteran cut candidate

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USA Today

Bears roster lacks veteran cut candidate

The Bears battle for the 53-man roster doesn’t have many contentious positions entering training camp.

Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy brought back largely the same roster from their breakout 2018 season, finding replacements for the few players gone in free agency.

Outside of kicker, the entire starting lineup is pretty much set for Week 1, and the main competitions to stick with the team are at the bottom of the depth chart.

It leaves the roster with no notable veterans that stand out as candidates to be cut. ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson was asked to name one for an article, and he couldn’t come up with any.

He mentioned Taquan Mizzell, who made the move from running back to wide receiver this offseason, but as Dickerson pointed out “Mizzell is hardly a well-known commodity around the league.”

Former third-round pick Jonathan Bullard hasn’t lived up to his draft status, but the Bears have seemed comfortable keeping him around in a backup role.

The Bears roster has very little fat to trim. The only other player who could potentially qualify is cornerback Sherrick McManis, since the team has so many young players at his position, but he’s been working at safety to increase his value, and he’s one of the team’s best special teams contributors.

The trim down from the 90-man roster shouldn’t have too many significant surprises, which is why so much of the attention this offseason continues to go to the kicker position.

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

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USA Today

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

Alex Bars was cleared to practice last week, allowing him his first chance to put on a helmet since tearing his ACL and MCL Sept. 29 while playing for Notre Dame. The undrafted guard was able to participate in veteran minicamp, allowing him to shake off some rust before his real push for a roster spot begins in training camp next month. 

Many speculated Bars would’ve been as high as a mid-round draft pick if not for that devastating knee injury. It didn’t take the 6-foot-6, 312 pound Bars long, though, to decide where he wanted to go after not being picked in April’s draft. Call it the Harry Hiestand effect. 

Bars played under Hiestand’s tutelage at Notre Dame from 2014-2017, and said he always wanted to wind up with the Bears to work with his former coach — just as 2018 top-10 picks Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey hoped to as well. 

“I remember talking about that, because they both wanted to play for him,” Bars said. “They understand where he can take you and how phenomenal a coach he is, so they both wanted that. And I’m just the same way.”

While Nelson transformed the Indianapolis Colts’ playoff-bound offensive line and McGlinchey showed plenty of promise with the San Francisco 49ers, the reunion of Bars and Hiestand carries some intriguing possibilities for the Bears. Bars has always had upside — he was a four-star recruit out of Nashville in 2014 — and getting to work with Hiestand may be the best way to tap into that potential. 

“He knows me very well, I understand his technique very well,” Bars said. “So having that connection, that player-coach connection all four years through college is huge.”

Hiestand called Bars after his injury last fall and offered some words of encouragement, which only furthered Bars' wish to play for his former college coach in the NFL. 

"That meant everything," Bars said. "He cares so much off the field as well as on the field. That’s who he is."  

Bars wasn’t able to participate in OTAs or rookie minicamp, but Hiestand doesn’t see that as putting him in a tough spot to make the Bears' 53-man roster. And there will very much be an opportunity for Bars to make a push during training camp, given 10-year veteran Ted Larsen only has $90,000 in guaranteed money on his one-year contract. 

It may not be the more eye-catching roster battle during training camp, but the Bears hope they can find interior offensive line depth through competition in Bourbonnais. And Bars, now cleared to practice, will get his shot. 

“He’ll have the chance because he’s smart, he understands the technique, he knows what to do,” Hiestand said during OTAs, when Bars hadn’t practiced yet. “He’s learning the offense even though he’s not doing it. But when we put the pads on that’s when you make or don’t make the team.” 

It’s often unfair — yet far too easy — to place high expectations on undrafted free agents. For every Cameron Meredith or Bryce Callahan who gets unearthed, there are dozens of anonymous players who struggle to stick on an NFL practice squad. 

But Bars is among the more important undrafted free agents on the Bears given his connection with Hiestand and the position he plays. While Kyle Long is healthy, he hasn’t played a full season since 2015, underscoring the Bears’ need for depth on the interior of their offensive line in the immediate future. 

And the Bears would save a little over $8 million against their 2020 cap if they were to make the difficult decision to cut Long in a year. If Bars develops into the kind of player plenty in the NFL thought he could be before his knee injury, that would make releasing Long a little easier to swallow at Halas Hall. 

For now, though, Bars is just hoping to make the Bears. Anything else is a long ways away.

“I’m excited to be here, thrilled for this opportunity and it’s all about productivity,” Bars said. “Just need to be productive and prove you belong on this team.”

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