The Commanders’ defense is ranked 29th in scoring and tied for 21st in yards after four games. But it has one of the best front fours in the NFL, with defensive ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young and defensive tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen.
While Young (2.5 sacks) and Sweat (three) have combined for 5.5 sacks, it’s the interior that could be most problematic with Payne and Allen against a shaky Bears interior, with left guard Cody Whitehair, center Lucas Patrick and right guard Nate Davis. Teven Jenkins could return at left guard after missing the first four games with a calf injury, which likely would move Whitehair to center. But it would be yet another new starting combination.
Davis figures to be better in his second game back after missing time for personal reasons.
“Slowly but surely getting all back at the same time, it’s going to be good. I’m excited about it,” Davis said. “At the same time, the guys we have now are more than enough. We’re good.”
The Bears’ third-down defense (33 of 56, 58.9%) not only is ranked 32nd and last in the NFL but also has been consistently subpar. The Bears have allowed all four opponents to convert more than 50% of their third-down opportunities — a recipe for disaster in the NFL. It’s the first time in at least the last 30 seasons a Bears defense had allowed more than 50% third-down conversions in four consecutive games.
The Commanders, though, are 27th in third-down conversions on offense (16 of 48, 33.3%).
Player to watch
Bears quarterback Justin Fields is coming off the best statistical performance of his three-year NFL career. He completed his first 16 passes and finished 28 of 35 for career highs of 335 yards, four touchdowns passes (with one interception) and a 132.7 passer rating.
“He’s been locked in,” Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. “I told you guys each week I feel like his comfort level in what we’re doing, knowing what his assignments are, knowing what’s going on around him is much improved. He was able to put that together much better this week.”
But it all came undone in the fourth quarter, when Fields was 5 of 11 for 50 yards and a game-clinching interception for a 21.0 passer rating. Fields not only has to prove he can sustain the good from last week but also avoid the bad.
With an 0-4 start and 14 consecutive losses, including three brutal losses already to the Packers (38-20), Chiefs (41-10) and Broncos (31-28 after leading 28-7), the heat is on coach Matt Eberflus, whose job security is a hot topic outside of Halas Hall if not inside.
Players have not expressed any sense of urgency about their coach’s status — they just need a win. But this seems like a rare must-win NFL game that does not involve playoff implications.