The first half was ugly. Both starting QB's went down with season-ending knee injuries (although calling Gross Rexman a QB requires a lot of the Hanukah spirit). The Redskins have a sordid history of letting 2nd string QBs tear them up, and in this case Brian Griese (a starter for much of this year) looked poised to do the same. Meanwhile, the Redskins backup, Todd Collins, hadn't played a regular season game since 2004.
I expected special teams to be the deciding factor in this game featuring two decent defenses and two bad offenses. The Redskins refused to give Hester any opportunities, but didn't get much out of their own return games. They missed two FGs in the first half, but managed to block a Bears FG.
Whether because of the short week (both teams only had three days off), the cold conditions or violent desperation, injuries began to mount. In addition to losing Campbell to a dislocated kneecap (ouch), they lost CB Smoot, RG Thomas, RB Portis and TE Cooley. While Cooley and Portis returned, their backups were instrumental in the victory.
With two backup QBs on the field, the defenses keyed on the run. CB Shawn Springs jumped an out pattern late in the half, setting up a TD pass from backup QB Collins to backup TE Yoder. Springs intercepted Griese's very next pass to send the Redskins into the locker room with a 7-0 lead.
After a long courtship of feeling each other up, both teams began to jiggle the bean effectively in the second half. Collins proved his worth as an exceptionally prepared QB who made up for his lack of mobility or big-time arm with quick decisions and a nice touch on the ball. He finished the game 15 for 20, 224 yards (54 on a screen pass to Portis) and 2 TDs (the second to Portis's backup, RB Betts).
The mighty Twelfth Man of Redskins Field was a determining factor in the victory, forcing the Bears into multiple key false starts and delay-of-games.
It was nice to see another team boof away a game by settling for FGs on 4th and short. In the fourth quarter, the Bears drove to the Redskins one yard line. Cheered on by the biggest attendance in the NFL, the defense guarded the end zone with the fierceness of a young Sean Taylor. On fourth and goal from the four yard line, the Bears kicked a FG to make the score 13-17.
There were less than seven minutes left, Redskins clinging to a four-point lead. I've already seen this go badly five times this season. How would the second-stringers on offense respond? By driving seventy yards for a TD, including three key passes for first downs by Collins. When the Bears took over with four minutes left, they dink and dunked their way to the Redskins four yard line again. It was fourth down, thirty-four seconds left. The score was 13-24. And so they kicked a field goal to make it an eight point game: nice one. Game over.
Incredibly, the Redskins can still be considered in the hunt for a wildcard spot. They may only be moral victories from here on out, but it's better than anything the Bears can serve up.
I will shortly be breaking down the playoff hopes for more legitimate contenders. But I would be remiss if I didn't deliver a Big Love with Cheese to my Redskins, backup QB Collins and the Redskins Twelfth Man. They won the Sloppy Seconds Bowl and that's going to have to be good enough for me.