Bears' defense continues to struggle

LANDOVER, Md. -- The Chicago Bears lost cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs to injuries Sunday during a 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins.

They’ll likely be back soon.

But the same couldn’t be said with confidence about Chicago’s once-dominating defense. An already injury-riddled team, the Bears entered Sunday having already lost four starters on defense to season-ending injuries, and struggled on nearly every level -- especially in the clutch -- as the Redskins, led by quarterback Robert Griffin III, shredded the Bears for 499 yards, including 209 on the ground.

“We’re not used to it,” said cornerback Tim Jennings. “But Washington played a great game. They had a great game plan. They get paid over there, too, and they have some guys that just made more plays than we did. Of course we’re not used to it, but it’s the NFL level. Somebody on defense has to make a play.”

Too many times on Sunday, nobody did; even with the game seemingly placed into Chicago’s hands.

With 4:02 left to play, backup quarterback Josh McCown capped a four-play drive spanning 67 yards, with a 7-yard touchdown pass to put the Bears ahead 41-38. Robbie Gould forced Washington to start the ensuing drive from the 20 by booting the ball into the end zone for a touchback.

The Redskins took possession with 3:52 left and 80 yards to go for the tying field goal.

“It was on us and we didn’t come through,” defensive end Corey Wootton said. “It’s frustrating when we let them drive on us like that. I know it’s been a theme, but we have to do better. This is the one that’s really frustrating. The game is in our hands. They had to drive the whole field (to score), and they drove it on us.”

Chicago started the drive with a 5-yard holding penalty on defensive tackle Stephen Paea. Griffin then commenced to complete 5 of 7 during a drive for 58 yards, while he helped the Redskins convert three third-down conversions.

When Roy Helu scored the game winner on a 3-yard run with 49 seconds left, he capped a 12-play drive by the Redskins.

“We didn’t make the plays today that we needed,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said.

For the most part, the group hasn’t done that all season; at least consistently. The Bears have given up 21 points or more in all seven games this season and 30 or more now in three outings. Prior to the loss Sunday, the Bears hadn’t allowed a team to finish with 200 yards or more since Oct. 25, 2009 (Cincinnati, 215 yards).

The Redskins converted 50 percent of their third downs and gashed the Bears for four runs for gains of 15 yards or more (including two 20-yard gains), while Griffin completed five passes for gains of 20 yards or more, including completions of 30, 38 and 45 yards. Washington also gained 28 first downs for the game, and dominated first half time of possession 22:01 to 7:59.

That helped Washington build at 24-17 lead at the half against a gassed Bears defense.

“It’s on us defensively,” Paea said. “No matter what type of offense they bring, we’ve still got to stop them.”

Chicago has proven successful when it can actually stop opponents, but the problem is that hasn’t happened yet in 2013. Coming into the season, the Bears had rolled up a record of 50-13 over the last nine years when they’ve limited opponents to 17 points or fewer in a game.

But we don’t know Chicago’s record under such conditions in 2013. The Bears haven’t yet held a team to fewer than 18.

“We’re just going to get back to work,” Trestman said. “When you don’t play as well as you like, you go back to work. Getting healthy over the next couple of 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.”