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Hoge’s Notes: Bears Defense Searching For Answers

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By Adam Hoge-

LANDOVER, Md. (CBS) — The visitors’ locker room at Fed Ex Field is divided into two separate rooms.

Sunday, after the Bears’ 45-41 loss to the Redskins, they were more like two different worlds.

On one side, you had a confident offense disappointed about a loss, but pleased with how it played with backup quarterback Josh McCown excelling in place of Jay Cutler, who left the game in the second quarter with a groin injury.

On the other side, you had a deflated defense hanging their heads, looking for answers.

“It just comes down to us (the defense),” defensive tackle Corey Wootton said. “It’s frustrating that we let them drive on us, the whole field. I know it’s been a theme. We got to do better. This is the one that is really frustrating.”

A few lockers over, defensive end Julius Peppers refused to put any of the blame on linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) and cornerback Charles Tillman (knee) leaving the game with injuries in the second half.

“Man, we don’t care about injuries. You got to have the guys on the field make plays and execute the defense,” he said.

The players on the field didn’t execute the defense. Overall, the Redskins outgained the Bears 499 to 359 in total net yards and ran 73 offensive plays to the Bears’ 52 plays.

Of course, head coach Marc Trestman, who runs the offense, said it wasn’t all the defense’s fault.

“We had three possessions in the first half which left our defense on the field and had a very significant and residual effect,” Trestman said.

He added that the offense “did basically nothing” on those drives, which kept the defense on the field. Overall, the Redskins held a 33:56-26:04 advantage in time of possession, but they held it for over 22 minutes in the first half, which left the defense gassed. And when the Redskins slammed on the gas pedal in the second half with a no-huddle offense, the Bears’ defense had no chance.

Then again, the defense didn’t play that well early in the game before they were tired. And it’s been an issue for weeks, leaving defensive coordinator Mel Tucker with a lot of work to do during the upcoming bye week.

“When you don’t play as best as you like, you go back to work,” Trestman said. “We’ll do that as coaches, in terms of evaluating our football team and what we’re doing. Getting healthy over the next couple weeks will be a big part of that. You can’t make excuses but we’re going to be a fresher team certainly when we come out of this break. I think our football team sees that and we can make plays and we can compete every week.”

Conte Takes Loss Hard

Bears safety Chris Conte had a rough game and he was visibly upset in the locker room afterward.

“Just a lot of plays that I could have made and I didn’t. And it sucks,” Conte said when asked why he was so emotional.

One specific play stood out.

With the game tied a 31 with 11:04 to go, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III launched a Hail Mary-like pass to the end zone where it appeared both Conte and Tillman were going to have a chance to intercept the ball. Conte had his eyes on the ball and not wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, who he ran into. Conte immediately fell down when the collision occurred and Tillman got twisted up as well trying to make a play on the ball. Robinson caught it to complete a 45-yard touchdown catch.

“I was playing middle of the field, just over the top, playing the ball in the air, got tangled up with him. My eyes were on the ball so we ran into each other and I ended up falling. It’s just a play that sucks,” Conte said.

Robinson pointed out that pass interference could have been called on Conte too, but wasn’t.

“I felt the bump. It should have been a PI, but I guess the refs saw that it did not mess me up or anything, so they didn’t call it. It didn’t affect me at all,” Robinson said.

Pleased With Bostic

Without the benefit of seeing the film, Trestman was happy with how rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic played in his first career NFL start.

“I thought Jonathan Bostic ran around there today and made some plays and was active and had a good first game,” the head coach said.

Special Teams Creativity

Devin Hester was able to take advantage of a bad Redskins’ special teams unit, returning a second quarter punt 81-yards for a touchdown. It was his 19th career return for a touchdown, tying the NFL record held by Deion Sanders, who sent him a text message congratulating him.

After the game, Hester was surprised the Redskins kicked to him.

“We knew that this was going to be a team that would try to keep it away from me just because the previous weeks they had been struggling on special teams. We assumed that they were going to try and stay away from our return game,” he said.

Meanwhile, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said his team worked all week on kicking the ball out of bounds or hanging it high, so he was not pleased that Hester got an opportunity to return it.

Not only did Hester return a punt for a touchdown, but he also threw a cross-field pass to Joe Anderson on the Bears’ final kick return when they were down four points and needed a touchdown with just 45 seconds left. Hester threw a dart right to Anderson, who returned it 25 yards to the Bears’ 38 yard line.

That wasn’t the only creative special teams play on the day either. Trestman and special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis surprised the Redskins with an onside kick in the fourth quarter. Zach Bowman recovered the kick for the Bears, but Eric Weems was ruled offsides so the Bears had to rekick. Replays showed Weems’ left knee just barely crossed the plane of the line of scrimmage on the kick.

“We needed a possession back,” Trestman said about the onside kick. “We had planned for it. It’s something we had planned for during the week. Special situation football decisions are not made at that moment. It was evident that their offense was on the field too much and the score was that if they recovered it and we could have stopped them, then it would have been a six-point game, so that was part of the decision-making process.”

Injury Updates

- Jay Cutler will have an MRI on his groin Monday morning. He was carted from the locker room to the team bus after the game.

- Despite being ruled “probable to return”, neither Briggs nor Tillman came back into the game. Afterward, Trestman couldn’t even remember what injuries they had, but it was announced that Briggs suffered a shoulder injury and Tillman banged up his ailing knee again.

- Brandon Marshall (wrist) and Blake Costanzo (undisclosed) both underwent X-rays after the game. All Marshall would say was: “Everything hurts.”

Notables

- Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo, who returned a Jay Cutler interception for a touchdown in the second quarter, said that was the first touchdown he has ever scored at any level of football in his entire life.

- The sack that knocked Jay Cutler out of the game was also Redskins defensive end Chris Baker’s first career sack.

“I was kind of disappointed he got hurt. You never want someone to get hurt, but it felt good to get my first sack,” Baker said.

- Robert Griffin III and Charles Tillman went to the same high school and Griffin was really excited about playing against him, even though Tillman picked him off in the first half.

“It was a dream come true for me to play against him today,” Griffin said. “He did get me with the interception, but I got him back with the touchdown.”

Griffin must not have realized that Conte fell down on that play.

- Bears backup running Michael Bush did not receive a single carry in the game.

Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.

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