The Redskins.com crew breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Saturday's Redskins-Bears 2016 Week 16 showdown at Soldier Field in Chicago.
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RUN THE BALL
Never leading during Monday's loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Redskins had to play catch-up throughout the ballgame. As a result, they had to abandon the running game, as the offense managed just 11 running back carries for 18 yards.
The 11 carries was a number that shocked tackle Trent Williams and something the entire offense doesn't want to see happen again.
"We kind of put ourselves in a bad position there, so we had to throw the ball a lot, but if we had the chance to run the ball a little bit more I think we would have rather had that opportunity instead of putting ourselves in a bad position, but that's football," Redskins guard Brandon Scherff admitted. "Stuff happens like that, you've got to do what you can to get out of the situation again."
The key this week will be to not lose confidence despite the difficult outing. The Bears aren't nearly as stout against the run as the Panthers, as Chicago allows more than 115 rushing yards per game.
Last Sunday, Green Bay Packers converted running back Ty Montgomery ran for a career-high 162 rushing yards on just 16 carries. He also scored two touchdowns in the Packers' 30-27 victory.
"The big thing is if you're going to try to force feed the running game, then you have to be good on third down because odds are you're going to have some third-and-four, third-and-fives and if you don't convert those, it's not going to go well and it didn't go well," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden admitted.
DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET THE WINAs Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said in the minute's following Monday's loss, the Redskins can't wallow in what happened against Carolina.
Instead of a typical week of rest, the Redskins had to get right back to work to prepare for a Saturday afternoon matchup with the Bears.
"We're trying to get back on this win streak," Norman said on Thursday. "I know we have two left. We've just got to come out here and put our best foot forward these last two games, and try to win them out and see what happens. We can't dictate the future, but what you can do is control what you can, and that's going out here and giving 110 percent, full out, max effort with everything we do."
Despite getting pushed a half-game out of the sixth seed in the NFC with Monday's result, the Redskins are alive with two games left in the season. Depending on how everything shakes out over the remaining two games, the Redskins could still find a way to make it back into the picture.
The Redskins, however, must take care of their own business at Soldier Field before they can worry about other outcomes.
"We don't need any magic speeches," Scherff admitted. "We know what's at stake, we can still be in this thing if we win these last two games, but we can't win the second without winning the first one. So we got to take care of business against a good Chicago team."
BOTTLE UP HOWARDSince becoming the Bears starting running back in Week 3, Jordan Howard has quietly becoming Chicago's best offensive player. If it weren't for the two rookies running Dallas's offense, Howard would be in the conversation for best offensive rookie.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' defense and special teams preparing for their Week 16 game against the Chicago Bears Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
Like fellow rookie running back, Washington's Rob Kelley, Howard has totaled seven touchdowns this season. Howard is one of just nine NFL backs to have already reached 1,000 rushing yards and he's currently fourth in yards per carry among runners with at least 150 attempts.
The fifth-round pick from Indiana, Howard, combines power – he's nicknamed "The Bulldozer" – with speed and elusiveness to be an effective runner despite Chicago's inconsistent passing game.
"That's what you see – you see a strong, physical running back that's a good one-cut runner and he can run through arm tackles, without a doubt," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "He's been very effective for them. Their record does not indicate the type of player that he is or the type of team that they have.
"They're a very competitive football team and he's a very strong running back and a big reason."
Leading into Monday night's game against the Carolina Panthers, only Dallas had run for more than 100 yards since Washington's bye in the first week of November. However, Carolina ran for 148 yards, including 132 by Jonathan Stewart – a back that compares similarly to Howard.
"We preach each and every day on the sideline, do your job, do your job," defensive end Ricky Jean Francois said after Monday's loss. "Don't do anybody else's job. I don't care what somebody else says to do; do your job. If you do your job, everything will work. If you want to do something extra and not be in the area you need to be in, that's what's going to happen.
"At the end of the game, you see Stewart running up the sideline because somebody wasn't in their gap, somebody wasn't in their area. This game is detailed, forget the physicality."
The Redskins have allowed less than 100 rushing yards in six games this season, in which Washington is 4-2. If the Redskins can slow down Jordan Howard and put the ball in Matt Barkley's hands more often, Washington will likely have much more success defensively.
GUIDE 'EM BACK TO SUCCESS, KIRKThe Redskins don't have time to look back on the loss to the Panthers. With only four days to prepare to play the Chicago Bears on Saturday and playoff implications still on the line, the team knows that they can't focus on being upset about the way things went down on Monday night.
Instead they are following the lead of Trent Williams, who has consistently preached the importance of remaining confident no matter what happened in the last game.
"Not my first time coming away from a tough loss. I've learned through all my years of playing football to just keep going and not ride the roller coaster and get back to work and do what you know to do as you prepare for the next one," Cousins said. "Come ready to go with an intense focus and help get other guys ready and go play. And trust that your preparation and your talent and the experience you have will be good enough to get back up and have a good outing."
A major aspect of what makes this week a challenge is the lack of time. But Cousins is remaining confident in his and the team's ability to overcome that, especially with the experience they had going into Dallas for Thanksgiving after just a short week off and putting up a strong fight in that road battle.
"Yeah, the compressed schedule is what it is. Can't control it, so we don't worry about it," Cousins said. "Frankly, when we played in Dallas, it was a short week and we were able to move the football and had a good outing on offense from that standpoint. So we don't really look to make excuses. Just excited for what we have to play for. We have a great opportunity now if we can win out, and we have to go into Chicago and come out with a win if we want to finish with the kind of season that we hoped to at the start of the year."
Head coach Jay Gruden also asserted his belief in Cousins' ability to continue to look forward and be an example for the rest of the team.
"Well, hopefully he hasn't lost any (confidence). I mean, it was a tough game and everybody has one or two," Gruden said. "You look around the league and most great quarterbacks, they don't have 125 passer rating every week. They're going to have their ups and downs and this wasn't all on Kirk, so he'll bounce back. He's a professional quarterback and understands how difficult it is every week to be successful and be really, really good, but he's a guy who's going to work at it."
Cousins' message and example has been passed along to other offensive players and is helping them remain confident despite the unit's tough showing against the Panthers. Cousins threw for 315 yards on 32 passes and had an interception at home this past Monday. The team falling behind early in the game also contributed to a limited performance on the ground, amassing only 29 yards.
But despite that, the Redskins know they need to keep believing in order to take care of business this weekend.
"[Cousins] always stayed positive, we can fix the things that we did on Monday night, but that game's over," Brandon Scherff said. "We wish it would have come out a little differently, but that's the game of football. You got to move forward and that's what we're doing. We're going to move on to the Bears."
This team has had a season of ups and downs which will help them play Chicago this Saturday. In terms of being prepared for that game, everyone has agreed that one thing is key.
"Just not lose our confidence," running back Chris Thompson said. "We know we didn't play as well as we should have, had a pretty bad game just all over the board. Now we just fix that by moving forward into our next game in a couple days and everything will be alright. We just know what we made mistakes on, we got to fix with this short week so we're just ready to face Chicago."