Forget about watching the tape, as coach John Fox suggested. Quarterback Matt Barkley said he’s to blame for everything that went wrong for him Saturday against the Redskins.
“I feel like on some plays I tried to win the game on that play.”
“I tried to do too much.”
“I think I was standing in my way today.”
Those are words of a young quarterback who blew a big opportunity against a mediocre defense to continue to win over a team that has a job opening at quarterback.
Barkley’s struggles in the Redskins’ 41-21 rout overshadowed any progress he made since taking over as the starter. It will take a stellar finish next week against the Vikings for that to change.
Making definitive statements about Barkley still remains shortsighted and premature. Five starts don’t make for a complete evaluation.
But Barkley’s naysayers — the ones who consider him a backup at best — have plenty of ammunition after his awful outing against a Redskins defense that was ranked 26th coming into Week 16.
Barkley threw five interceptions, and all of them were on him.
There were no second-half heroics, no moral victories for the Bears or him to feel good about. The first four possessions of the second half ended with interceptions.
In the last two games, Barkley has accounted for nine turnovers, which includes only one fumble. His five interceptions Saturday were the most in a game since Jay Cutler had five in a 10-6 loss to the 49ers on Nov. 12, 2009.
“It was a tough one to swallow, another one you’d want to forget,” said Barkley, who completed 24 of 40 passes for 323 yards with two touchdowns and a 62.8 passer rating.
“But there’s a lot to learn from, a lot we did really well in this game. It’s just those glaring mistakes stand out, and those are the ones that hurt.”
Barkley’s decision-making was poor. He threw a deep pass to maligned receiver Josh Bellamy over the middle despite double coverage, and he inexplicably forced a ball to receiver Alshon Jeffery to avoid taking a sack.
Barkley also fired a pass to receiver Cam Meredith despite cornerback Josh Norman being all over him. He overthrew a wide-open Jeffery and later threw behind Jeffery off his back foot.
All of the above situations resulted in interceptions by Barkley. Norman and cornerback Bashaud Breeland each had two; safety Will Blackmon had one.
“My boys were out there flying around,” receiver DeSean Jackson said of the Redskins’ defense. “A lot of Christmas gifts being thrown in the air.”
Trash talk aside, evaluating Barkley still remains a muddled process.
It would be interesting to see what he could become with an offseason program, training camp and preseason. Barkley was signed to the practice squad Sept. 5 but didn’t practice with the first team until the week of Thanksgiving.
It also would be interesting to see what Barkley could do if he wasn’t throwing to Bellamy, returner Deonte Thompson or tight end Daniel Brown. Jeffery was suspended for Barkley’s first three starts, and tight end Zach Miller broke his right foot before Barkley took over.
And it would be more compelling if Barkley wasn’t a late-season surprise for a team that’s out of contention and playing an array of young players. Much of the buzz about Barkley is rooted in the Bears’ need for a young quarterback to go with their rebuilding efforts.
“He just got out of rhythm a little bit maybe,” said Meredith, who caught a 21-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. “We know that’s not how he is all the time. He’s a steady playmaker.
“He’s stepped up and done a lot of good things for us. Everybody has those games. Receivers have drops, defense has missed tackles. He’s just like everybody else.”