Jerrell Freeman knew how bad it looked.
“The fans deserve better than that,” the Bears linebacker after the defense allowed 478 more yards in a 41-21 loss to the Redskins on Saturday at Soldier Field. “We had a lot of guys fighting, but we have to come out here and execute, whether you’re a vet, a young guy — when you step on that field, we expect you to come out and know your job and do your job.”
Determined to atone for a poor performance against the Packers last week, the Bears instead suffered an embarrassing ignominy — they got worse. After making steady progress throughout the season under coordinator Vic Fangio, they seem to have hit the wall, with Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense consistently keeping them off balance — zigging when the Bears were zagging, throwing screen passes to beat the Bears blitz and out-playing the Bears when they weren’t out-foxing them.
If it wasn’t a perfect play call, then it was Cousins outrunning Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee to the pylon for a nine-yard touchdown that told the story.
“His speed snuck up on me,” McPhee said.
The Redskins seemed to sneak up on the Bears’ defense at every turn Saturday. With Cousins virtually playing catch with his receivers, the Redskins had 270 passing and 208 rushing. Cousins had pass plays of 57, 46, 29, 25 and 21 yards. Reserve running back Mack Brown capped the horrific day for the Bears’ defense with a 61-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds left. The Bears, who allowed five plays of 40 yards or more in their first 13 games, have allowed six plays of 40 yards or more in the last two.
“They didn’t do anything that surprised us, and that’s the reason for the frustration,” Freeman said.
Even in his low-key tone, Freeman couldn’t hide his emotions, laying the blame for this debacle on the defensive players for … just not playing well enough.
“[We’re] shooting ourselves in the foot — that’s the biggest problem,” said Freeman, who led the Bears with nine tackles in his first game since serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. “Knowing situations. Knowing the play. Knowing the defense we’re playing. It’s understanding what’s going on out there. We’ve got to be a better team than that.
“You’ve got to go out there and perform — do your job. Don’t be out there playing not to mess up. Go play ball. We had a good week of practice. Vic had a great game plan. He makes the call, go out there and do what you’re supposed to be doing.
“We’ve got guys counting on each other. [But] we’ve got guys running scot-free. We’ve got to tighten stuff up, regardless of who’s in there. You get on that field, we trust you to make plays.”
Freeman didn’t let himself off the hook. He was burned on a blitz on a third-and-nine from the Bears’ 17 when the Redskins had the perfect play call — a screen pass to running back Chris Thompson, who went into the end zone untouched to give the Redskins a 14-0 lead.
“Yeah [it was a good call], but at the same time, when there’s a screen like that and you’re coming on the blitz, you’ve got to kind of feel it. You’ve got to know what can hurt you and what can be coming.”
About the only redeeming value to this loss was that the Bears’ defense didn’t make excuses.
“Not making plays. Not finishing,” McPhee said when asked what went wrong. “I think I had a good performance last week and I really didn’t do nothing to help my team win or put my team in a position to win. I’ve got to do a better job of winning my individual match-up and making plays for the defense; for the whole team.”