CHICAGO — Jason Hatcher was not trying to curb the Washington Redskins’ enthusiasm after their 24-21 win against the Chicago Bears, but the veteran defensive end made sure the team realized that if it wants to win the NFC East, it cannot be satisfied with Sunday’s performance.
The Redskins lifted a great burden off of their shoulders when they won their first road game of the season at Soldier Field. The win came after a crushing, 19-16 home loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, when the Redskins squandered the opportunity to pull ahead as the leader in the muddied division.
Now, they remain tied with the Philadelphia Eagles, which could once again become a three-way tie if the New York Giants beat the Miami Dolphins on Monday.
As elated as players were after the victory, there was a hint of disappointment, too. The Redskins’ offense failed to extend a 14-0 lead in the second quarter after the defense forced its seventh turnover in three games. The offense gained just nine yards in the entire quarter. After quarterback Kirk Cousins threw an interception in the third quarter, the Redskins allowed Bears running back Matt Forte to gain 21 yards on three consecutive rushes — the third of which was a seven-yard touchdown to tie the score, 21-21.
Then in the fourth quarter, with the Bears backed up to their own 15-yard line, the defense buckled and allowed Alshon Jeffrey to break free for a 50-yard reception. The Redskins forced incompletions on two of the next three plays and all of their imperfections were rendered meaningless when Bears kicker Robbie Gould missed a tying 50-yard field goal attempt with 1:45 to play.
“That field goal, it was nice to see him miss it,” inside linebacker Will Compton said. “We’ll take them how we can get ‘em, but it’s still trying to live in those details, ‘This is what we should have done.’ That’s the mentality you want to have. You don’t want to be happy and relaxed you just slipped by. We could have handled our business more.
“You look back at when they drove on the two-minute. That should have never happened. Hats off to them, they did a good job. The one that really should have never happened was when they scored the third touchdown. They hit us with a couple of runs. We wanted to make it a quick turnaround, and that one really pissed us off. It was more upsetting it wasn’t anything they did. It was us not being disciplined.”
It’s not as if Compton wasn’t satisfied at all with Sunday’s victory, but his frustration is more of a product of the team’s focus as it approaches these final three games and push to make the playoffs. Last Monday’s loss to the Cowboys was a cruel reminder that nothing is certain, even in a division as weak as the NFC East, if it doesn’t play well.
It’s important for the team not to lose sight of that, especially with road games looming against the Eagles and Cowboys after next week’s home game against the Buffalo Bills.
“From this day forward, every win is so important and we understand that as a football team,” Hatcher said. “We just got to keep getting better — situational football, understanding where we’re at and play sound football. This late December, coaches are coaching their butts off and players are playing their butts off, we need to focus on hitting on all cylinders in every aspect. Just the details and situational football, we’ve got to get better at.”
The Redskins played well enough to win on Sunday and finally had a few breaks go their way — the most notable being the head-spinning play in the fourth quarter.
Cousins was incredibly efficient, completing 24 of 31 of his passes for 300 yards and a touchdown. He had one interception, and nearly had another one when he heaved a pass for Jordan Reed. The tight end tipped the ball into the air, running back Matt Jones caught it for an 18-yard gain, then dropped the football after he thought he was touched down by a Bears defender. In reality, it was teammate Jamison Crowder who touched him, and Jones, after realizing his error, scrambled to pick it up.
There were just over four minutes to play and the Redskins avoided a momentum-shifting turnover. Cousins explained the jump ball as a calculated risk, one he was confident Reed could win.
“You’re going to die by that more than you’re going to live by that, but we were fortunate today,” Cousins said. “Sometimes, to win, you need that kind of thing to fall your way.
“It was a win, but along the was the process perfect? No, and we have a lot to go back and improve on.”
As the Redskins push for the playoffs through these next three games, the challenge now is to perfect the process.