LANDOVER – Hours following a 31-15 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sept. 23 at FedExField, Head Coach Jay Gruden stood at the podium with the opportunity to announce possible changes coming to his coaching staff for his roster before their Week Four game against the New York Giants.
In short, Gruden said the team is not giving up. It is a statement the sixth-year head coach felt the need to reiterate several times after Washington’s loss moved their record to 0-3.
With fans in the stands chanting rookie backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins’ name, and with questions from reporters about potential personnel changes on his coaching staff, Gruden said he is sticking to the plan.
Coming into Week Four, it is not expected for Gruden to fire Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky or to bench quarterback Case Keenum, he said. While fans want coaches to be fired, Gruden said he will not make any big changes yet.
“We have a lot of very good guys on offense that have never played together before until these past three games,” Gruden said. “We have some talent. We just have to coach them up better, play better, be more balanced and protect the football.”
The scoring in Monday night’s game began with a pick-six from a former Redskin, Chicago safety Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix, who caught an overthrown pass from Keenum and took it 37 yards for a touchdown. The Bears would go on to score four unanswered touchdowns and jumps to a 28-3 at halftime.
For his part, Keenum threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles, which has led to calls by fans for him to be benched in favor of Haskins, the team’s 2019 first round draft pick.
Keenum would lead a comeback effort in the second half, throwing for 332 yards and two touchdowns, getting Washington within 13 points only to fumble the ball on a fourth-down quarterback sneak.
“We have a lot of very good guys on offense that have never played together before until these past three games,” Keenum said. “We have some talent. We just have to coach them up better, play better, be more balanced and protect the football.”
Turnovers were the name of the game. Chicago’s highly rated defense, which has allowed the third lowest points per game in the NFL three weeks into the season, disrupted the Redskins’ offensive rhythm early in the game.
Keenum had not turned the ball over in his first two starts in Washington, but that changed quickly as the Bears’ front seven dominated the Redskins’ offensive line, sacking Keenum four times and pressuring him for much of the game.
One of those pressures ended with a turnover from Chicago’s All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack, who beat Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses and stripped Keenum to give the Bears the ball at Washington’s 11-yard line. It was one of many times that Mack disrupted the Redskins’ offense, finishing the night with two sacks.
Washington had no answer for him all night.
“We tried to keep tight ends in to bang him, we tried (to get) Chris Thompson (to) bang him, we tried a little bit of everything,” Gruden said of the team’s game plan to stop Mack. “He is just a great player.”
The Redskins’ struggles on defense this season also continued against the Bears. For the third-straight week, Washington gave up at least 31 points to the opponent. While Washington struggled to get points on the scoreboard due to turnovers, Chicago’s low-ranked offense was able to finish off drives and score.
Prior to playing Washington, the Bears’ offense averaged just 13 points a game, ranking near the bottom of the league in total yards and points.
“It’s frustrating. It’s been like three different kinds of losses,” said Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. “Blew a lead week one. Last week we didn’t stop the run defensively; tonight, we got ourselves in a hole and couldn’t get out. It’s frustrating, for sure.”