Here's five takeaways from the Washington Redskins' Week 16 victory over the Chicago Bears that took place at Soldier Field.
1. The defense frustrated Matt Barkley all afternoon, recording five interceptions.
It was a recent trend the Redskins had become frustrated with: they weren't forcing turnovers. It looked like those fortunes were going to change early in the first quarter with a forced fumble.
That fumble would be overturned and the Bears would drive deeper into the end zone before Preston Smith recorded the Redskins' first blocked field goal since the 2012 season.
Then, over the next three-plus quarters, the Redskins recorded five interceptions. It was the first time since Nov. 29, 1992 that Washington had five interceptions in a game and – dating back to 1960 – the first time that multiple players (Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland) finished a game with multiple interceptions.
Norman and Breeland would each record two interceptions while safety Will Blackmon got his hands on one, too, and returned it 79 yards.
"I think we made up for the whole year in one game," Blackmon said. "We dropped about 10 this year, but it was just good for guys to look back for the ball, be in the right spot at the right time and just capitalize. It was real key for us to do that today. I think last week and the last few weeks, we had chances to make plays on the ball and we have a good secondary. Skill-wise, across the board, we have starters all over the place. It was cool to see that happen."
Entering the game, Norman and Breeland each only had one interception on the season, but both were able to up their year-total to three.
"It's very big to re-write history," Breeland said. "That's what we try to do. We try to change the program around. We've had our ups and downs, but we're still fighting."
Breeland and Norman haven't been shy about their competitive battles, and it showed on Saturday.
On Breeland's first interception, Norman nearly took it away from the Clemson product as they were both in position to grab the pick.
"All the talk about how we dislike each other, but we really compete with each other," Norman said. "We learn from each other. We're just different. We're two different human beings. It just looks different."
2. The running game had a balanced day, as all three running backs had their moments.
The Redskins were frustrated with how they ran the ball Monday night against the Panthers, and it showed.
Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson combined for just 11 carries against Carolina – with neither having much success – before the Redskins had to abandon the run game to play catch-up.
Saturday was a different story, as the Redskins jumped out to an early lead before collecting 35 carries for more than 200 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Kelley finished the afternoon with 76 yards on 19 carries while Thompson logged 20 yards and a touchdown on three carries.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins also picked up 30 yards while becoming the first quarterback this season to rush for two touchdowns in a single game.
The performance was capped off by Mack Brown, as the second-year Florida product scored a 61-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
"It felt good to go out there and actually get the game started," Kelley said. "Once I got a few runs in, Chris came and got his runs in, then Mack Brown came in. I mean, it felt good to be the guy that everybody could feed off."
Thompson got the scoring started with a seven-yard touchdown run on the Redskins' second possession of the game before recording a 17-yard receiving touchdown on the next drive.
Not only did it mark the first multi-touchdown performance of his career, he became the first Redskins play to record a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown since Kelvin Bryant on Oct. 2, 1998.
"I felt like I would have a few opportunities today, and it comes down to us really being able to be great in the run game and protecting Kirk back there," Thompson said. "Hats off to Sean McVay with my two touchdowns, just some great play calls he made and offensive line did a great job."
Then in the fourth quarter as the Redskins were trying to drain the clock, Brown broke out for a the game's final score.
"[I'd] seen the guy coming the bad angle and all I kept saying was, 'God, let me get to this end zone,'" Brown said. "And when I see him on the outside, I said, 'I'm gone.' I knew I was going to score after like 20 yards in."
3. Preston Smith bounces back with a big performance.
While Smith has had his moments during his sophomore NFL season, he had been rather quiet in recent weeks.
Check out the images from the postgame celebration after the Redskins win against the Bears!
That all changed on Saturday, as he recorded a sack – he had a second called back due to a penalty – along with the blocked field goal attempt to prevent the Bears from scoring in the first quarter.
He also had quarterback pressures on two of Barkley's interception throws.
"After the first sack where there was a penalty on it, I knew [I was going to have a big day]," Smith said. "I believed in that rush, I just got off the ball, and it was great timing. I just knew if I kept on rushing like that, another one would come. I had an opportunity for a few more after that."
And with the Redskins' struggles to get off the field in key situations this year, he was happy to assist on the plays where Barkley was picked.
"It's always great knowing that even if you didn't make the play, you helped people make the play to get our offense back the ball, our defense off the field, and rest up on the sideline while our offense go to work," Smith said.
4. DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon made big plays throughout the day to lead the passing attack.Without an injured Jordan Reed on the field and Jamison Crowder limited to just one catch, the Bears defense found out the hard way that the Redskins simply have too many weapons in the passing game.
On a day in which the offensive line kept Cousins upright, Jackson logged five receptions for 114 yards while Garçon picked up 94 receiving yards on four catches.
"They play a two high stretch, that's their style of defense," Jackson said. "The Chicago Bears have been playing that for a long time, that's their scheme and they stick with it. We definitely had a lot of options, Sean McVay and Coach [Jay] Gruden dialed up these plays throughout the week, we made progress in practice with those plays, so we definitely had the looks we thought we were going to have."
Jackson made a few tough catches on the afternoon, including his first grab of the day when he took a little bit of a shot coming down with the ball.
But the speedster's biggest play of the day came on a 57-yard catch-and-run on a shallow crossing route.
"Whatever it is, I'll do it to help my team win the game," Jackson said. "That's what I'm here to do. Made some plays early on, pretty good win. We needed this win, especially coming off a game like we had last week at home on a Monday night. So we felt the opportunity and come out and play football all on one level."
With one more game to go, both receivers could finish the season with 1,000 yards receiving.
5. Cousins was productive through the air and on the ground.
With a banged up Bears defensive unit on the ropes from the first quarter on, Cousins rebounded from a tough outing against the Panthers by once again throwing for nearly 300 yards along with a passing touchdown, no interceptions and two rushing scores.
His 104.1 passer rating was the eighth this season above 100.
"There were big plays by the receivers," Cousins said. "We were able to run the ball effectively. Chris Thompson got us in there. Then, a few third down conversions made the difference to keep us on the field and give us a chance to get down into scoring territory and come away with points. So, it was a combination of factors to get us down there and put up enough points to get the win."
Cousins also took advantage of a strong and steady pocket around him, as the Redskins' offensive line didn't allow much pressure on the quarterback despite a fairly aggresive defensive unit on the other side of the football.
"I'm really pleased with the way they continue to protect me," Cousins said. "I don't even know if we have twenty sacks (given up) yet this year. So, great job by them. They're playing at a very high level, and I'm proud of the way they've played all year long."