In Week 7, Washington finally established its identity for the season. It’s a strange identity, of course, but we’d expect nothing less from a 2-4 team that scarcely resembles the one that started the season. At least now we know what we’re in for the rest of the way.
Alfred Morris will run the ball, over and over. Roy Helu Jr. will come in for the touchdowns, then take off his helmet so we can see that hair. (Forget Troy Polamalu. This guy has great hair. And he wears what looked to be a barrette! I love this guy.) Jordan Reed will catch the ball. And catch it again. And get hurt, and catch it again. Robert Griffin III will run and throw the ball. And those four will have to keep doing that till the cows come home because offense is what this team has, and lots of it.
Griffin finally shook off the last of the rust, dust, jitters, whatever, and played entirely like a quarterback without a brace on his knee and two major surgeries in his rearview mirror. He was almost there last week, and Sunday he was vintage Griffin — if a second-year player can be vintage. He rushed for 84 yards and threw for 298. He’s still throwing into coverage a little too often, but that was a solid effort.
Morris was carrying defenders on his back like the old days. Helu had 41 flashy yards, and Morris ground out his 95. Morris gets those little one-yard gains and not a few one-yard losses. He takes more punishment than anyone, then bounces up and tosses the ball to the official. He and Helu are a wicked tandem if used properly. And Reed has replaced Pierre Garcon as Griffin’s go-to guy. Give the team credit for yet another rookie with a bright future.
Of course, it must be said that all of this offense happened against a depleted Bears defense. Already missing some key players, they lost linebacker Lance Briggs and fell apart. The offense should have had a field day under those conditions.
But the Bears also lost starting quarterback Jay Cutler to what I can’t resist describing as “just another groin injury.” That should have been a gift to the struggling Washington defense: a backup quarterback who hadn’t taken a regular season snap in two seasons. Release the Kraken!
The Kraken, however, turned out to be Josh McCown, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards, threw a touchdown and no interceptions, and ended with a quarterback rating of 119.6 — 14 points higher than Griffin’s. He also rushed for 33 yards. He never gets reps in practice, and he hadn’t played in an NFL game in two years. Either he’s the Bears’ new starter or Washington’s defense is a hot mess.
Said defense gave up 41 points after giving up 31 in Dallas. Well, to pick nits, in Sunday’s game, special teams gave up a touchdown and Charles Tillman’s interception gave the Bears a first and goal from the 10, the equivalent of a gimme putt. Chicago was going to score; it was just a matter of 3 or 7. The defense was able to slow the Bears’ running game but they couldn’t keep them out of the end zone. That helped lead to the craziness of eight lead changes and seven ties.
What else helped? Special teams, which continues to belie its name. Devin Hester ran right back to 2007 with an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown. Hester used to be the master of the touchdown return, but he hadn’t done it in 29 games.
And speaking of special teams — and I never thought I would write this sentence — Mike Shanahan needs to bring back journeyman place kicker John Potter. It’s an extravagance to carry two place kickers, but Kai Forbath’s kickoffs aren’t getting the job done. He had eight Sunday, and only one was a touchback. (Chicago’s Robbie Gould, by comparison, had five touchbacks.) The Bears amassed105 yards on Forbath’s kicks of 52, 72, 46, 44, 61, 42 and 48 yards. That’s also a coverage problem, but the biggest problem is giving the opposition good field position when the defense is still a little . . . porous.
The beat-up Bears were just what Washington needed to get a second win and a little confidence going into Denver on Sunday. But if Chicago can match Washington point for point, imagine what the Broncos can do.
For more by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.