- - Saturday, December 24, 2016

CHICAGO — Earlier in the week, Redskins coach Jay Gruden acknowledged that the Redskins would need help from other teams if his squad wanted to make the playoffs.

But that help would mean nothing if the Redskins didn’t win out.

Gruden and the Redskins took care of their part of the equation Saturday with a 41-21 thumping of the hapless Chicago Bears.

There were questions about how the Redskins would respond on only five days rest and a disappointing Monday night loss to the Carolina Panthers, even against the now 3-12 Bears.

The Redskins, however, came out determined.

“We started fast, which was good. I’m happy the way we started the game,” Gruden said. “I was a little upset at the end of the half as we let them a little bit back in the game, to score that touchdown. But the way we started the third and forced five turnovers.

“Overall, it was big time.”

The Redskins’ “big time” play could be attributed to phases of the ball that have seemingly gone ignored in recent weeks. The defense wasn’t perfect, but it made plays when it counted.

Bears quarterback Matt Barkley threw five interceptions — four in the second half — and defensive end Preston Smith blocked a 22-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter.

It was the first time since Nov. 29, 1992, that the Redskins had five interceptions on defense.

“We came out and had a whole different half, said cornerback Josh Norman, who had two of his team’s five picks.

Norman had his only other interception earlier this year against the Cleveland Browns, and the Bears seemed more than willing to test the man who is the closest thing the Redskins have to a “shutdown” corner.

“I was pissed off,” Norman said. “When the second half came out, I was like ‘this is how it’s going to be?’ I just didn’t know. The disrespect came out. They came out here throwing the ball? Well, shoot, we’re gonna come out here and make some plays.

“We’re going to show why, we are who we are.”

The Redskins also showed the Bears who they were on offense, and more so, what they’re capable of being.

A balanced combination of the pass and run set the stage for a first quarter touchdown on their second series when running back Chris Thompson ran for a 7-yard touchdown on a draw. In total, the Redskins ran the ball 35 times.

With a productive running game established, quarterback Kirk Cousins suddenly had plenty of time to drop back and find his receivers in space, blowing the lead open. Cousins went 18 of 29 for 270 yards and a touchdown.

Cousins took advantage of the Bears‘ dire cornerback situation and easily connected with receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Jackson’s 57-yard catch-and-run and Garcon’s 46-yard bomb both led to scores.

Cousins got the job done with his feet, too. He rushed for two touchdowns, a nine-yard gain to give the Redskins a 24-7 lead with 1:41 in the first half and then later, a one-yard sneak to give the Redskins a 31-14 lead in the third quarter.

By halftime the Redskins offense had already racked up 317 yards. They finished with 41 points, their second-highest total of the season, and 478 yards.

“At times, it was just the coverages they played, or an all-out blitz may have opened it up,” Cousins said, “but, at other, times, I think, they had to honor the run, and there’s a lot there they have to have eye control with.”

The Bears lost track of both Jackson and Garcon. Jackson finished with five receptions for 114 yards while Garcon had four receptions for 94 yards.

Still, Redskins defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said there were plenty of areas to improve, particularly defensively. While limiting to the Bears to 21 points, Chicago still had 458 yards. The Bears converted on 7 of 10 on third down, above their season average of 46.3 percent. The Bears also had 31 first downs.

Yet, there was progress in the ability to force turnovers. The Redskins also had multiple players with more than one interception for the first time since at least 1960, according to the team’s staff.

Along with Norman, Bashaud Breeland had two interceptions. Safety Will Blackmon had the other.

The Redskins now close their regular season against the New York Giants on New Year’s Day. To make the playoffs, they need to beat the Giants and they need help.

The Green Bay Packers have to lose against the Detroit Lions and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to lose at least one of their two remaining games. They could also get in the playoffs by the Detroit Lions losing both their remaining games.

But again, that won’t mean anything if the Redskins don’t take care of business against the Giants like they did against the Bears.

“It’s going to be a huge game,” Jackson said. “Our backs are against the wall, kind of been against the wall for the past couple weeks. As long as we can take advantage of our opportunities and do what we need to do to win a football game … we definitely feel like we need to go out there and show them a little something.”

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