CHICAGO — The Washington Redskins’ second preseason game Saturday night produced a first half they’d mostly like to forget, with quarterback Robert Griffin III having nowhere to turn at times. But fellow rookie Kirk Cousins took over in the second half and provided a lift, throwing a trio of fourth-quarter touchdown passes as the Redskins rallied before losing to the Chicago Bears, 33-31 at Soldier Field.
Cousins, playing after Griffin while veteran quarterback Rex Grossman remained idle, nearly engineered a comeback victory with touchdown passes of five yards to tight end Niles Paul, 49 yards to wide receiver Aldrick Robinson and 20 yards to wideout Dezmon Briscoe. Cousins completed 18 of 23 passes for 264 yards.
The Redskins, thanks to Cousins, took a 31-30 lead before a 57-yard field goal by Chicago place kicker Robbie Gould in the final minute gave the Bears the triumph.
Until Cousins’s exploits, it hadn’t been a particularly good night for the Redskins. They surrendered the game’s first 17 points to the Bears and trailed, 20-10, at halftime, then yielded a touchdown on the opening kickoff of the second half. The Redskins also had their problems stopping the pass on defense and watched linebacker Brian Orakpo and safety Brandon Meriweather leave the game with injuries.
There were a few bright spots for the Redskins before the game was turned over entirely to the backups by both teams. Brandon Banks scored a touchdown on a 91-yard punt return late in the first half. Rookie Alfred Morris got the starting assignment at tailback and had some good moments, beginning with a 21-yard run on his first carry. Griffin managed to complete 5 of 8 passes in one half of work.
But Griffin had only 49 passing yards before fellow rookie Cousins took over on the Redskins’ opening possession of the second half.
“We never really got in a rhythm. . . . We didn’t play bad. We didn’t play good, either,” Griffin said.
Griffin was sacked three times and lost a fumble. The Redskins’ six first-half possessions on offense — aside from Banks’s punt return and a final-play kneel-down by Griffin — resulted in four punts, Griffin’s turnover and a 28-yard field goal by Neil Rackers.
There also were problems on defense as Bears quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Jason Campbell totaled 224 first-half passing yards. But perhaps most significantly for the Redskins, Orakpo hurt his left shoulder attempting to make a tackle against Bears wide receiver Devin Hester and Meriweather injured his left knee on the second of two first-half touchdown runs by Chicago running back Michael Bush.
Neither player returned to the game. The extent of their injuries was not immediately clear.
Griffin was coming off a solid outing in his preseason unveiling at Buffalo nine days earlier. He connected on 4 of 6 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown on a screen pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon in that game. He also was given time to throw that night by his offensive line, without having to run with the ball by necessity.
Things were different Saturday, as the Bears kept Griffin on the move. Redskins left tackle Trent Williams was back in the lineup after suffering a bruised foot during the Buffalo game. But right guard Chris Chester was sidelined by a sprained ankle. The team’s would-be starter at right tackle, Jammal Brown, hasn’t practiced or played in a game since aggravating a hip injury on the day before training camp began, and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger is expected to miss the entire preseason after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
The Redskins punted on each of their first two possessions. Their third drive resulted in Griffin losing a fumble on a sack by Bears defensive end Israel Idonije. Chicago’s other defensive end, Julius Peppers, recovered the ball at Washington’s 8-yard line to set up the second of Bush’s two touchdowns.
The Redskins’ defense couldn’t be particularly faulted for that touchdown. But it had its struggles earlier on the Bears’ opening drive of the night. Cutler completed 4 of 5 passes for 81 yards on that possession. The drive began with wide receiver Brandon Marshall sprinting past Redskins cornerback Cedric Griffin and catching Cutler’s throw for a 41-yard gain. Cutler had a 20-yard completion to Marshall later in the drive, and connected with rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on a 16-yard pass to set up Bush’s one-yard touchdown.
“I wish we could have done a little bit better today,” Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander told the team’s radio network in a sideline interview during the game. “We gave up, what, 14 points, 17 points? That’s just uncalled for.”
The Bears added a 45-yard field goal by Gould early in the second quarter. Rackers’s field goal and the punt return by Banks, who is competing for a roster spot at wide receiver, pulled the Redskins to within 17-10.
But Campbell, the former Redskins starter, led the Bears to Gould’s 28-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half, and Chicago’s Lorenzo Booker scored a 105-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff of the second half.
Rackers, vying for the Redskins’ kicking job with incumbent Graham Gano, missed a 54-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter. Cousins threw a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Niles Paul early in the fourth quarter.