5 things we learned vs. Redskins

LANDOVER, Md. -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears’ 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins:

1. Bears are in serious trouble: There is no excuse for a team to lose a game when its No. 2 quarterback comes off the bench and performs at the level Josh McCown did Sunday. None. McCown and the offense did everything in their power to win the game. But the defense is broken beyond repair. The Green Bay Packers could hang 60 points on the Bears’ defense on Nov. 4. That’s not an exaggeration. It’s hard to envision the Bears beating any of the good teams remaining on their schedule. The bad ones? Sure, that still remains a possibility, but how can McCown possibly play any better than he did against the Redskins, if in fact he is the quarterback for the foreseeable future? Chicago wasted a golden opportunity to move to 5-2, even without Jay Cutler at quarterback. This will come back to haunt the Bears.

2. Defensive help is not on the horizon: The problems start up front for the Bears’ defense. While the safeties had a rough game Sunday, there is just no consistent pass rush. This sounds like a broken record to Chicago fans, but a defense cannot function if the opposing quarterback has all day to throw. Corey Wootton is a maximum effort guy. He is putting it all on the line every week, despite playing out of position at defensive tackle, but he needs help. Julius Peppers was around the ball more in Week 7 (seven tackles), but where are the impact plays? Where are the sacks? Where are the forced fumbles? And I don’t mean just from Peppers. This is a defensive line epidemic. Undrafted rookie David Bass has potential and Stephen Paea looked good before he got hurt, but the Bears have a major need at the position. But with limited salary-cap space, general manager Phil Emery isn’t in a position where he can do much tinkering with the roster. This is a problem that must be addressed in the offseason. Emery was able to rebuild the offensive line in one year; can he do the same on defense?

3. McCown was excellent in the loss: Honestly, this couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. McCown is the ultimate professional. He’s a leader. He prepares every week like he’s going to start. He works hard to master the offense. And we found out Sunday that he still has an above-average arm. McCown gives the Bears a chance at quarterback. That’s all you can ask for from an NFL reserve quarterback. It will get more difficult as the season wears on for McCown, if the Cutler injury is as serious as it looked at FedEx Field, but the Bears do not run the risk of players throwing in the towel on offense. McCown has credibility. The Bears just better hope he can stay healthy.

4. Bears are leaving plays on the field: The demise of the Bears’ defense can be traced back to its inability to finish plays. I thought for the longest time the injuries on the defensive line led to the slide, but it’s alarming how many times the Bears have failed to intercept balls that should be intercepted or whiffed on key tackles and sacks. Here are two perfect examples from Sunday: (1) RG III lobs up a terrible pass that either Chris Conte or Charles Tillman should pick off, but Conte falls down, Tillman stops running, and Aldrick Robinson hauls in a 45-yard touchdown falling backward in the end zone; and (2) Shea McClellin has RG III all but wrapped up on the Redskins sideline but can’t bring him down, so RG III goes on to complete a critical third-down pass for a first down on Washington’s final scoring drive. That’s not a talent issue. That’s an execution issue. Make a play.

5. Brandon Meriweather will never learn: The Bears are so lucky that Meriweather moved on after only one regrettable season in Chicago when he stunk up the joint. But Meriweather isn’t just the Redskins’ problem. He’s the NFL’s problem. We were reminded again Sunday that Meriweather is the most undisciplined player in the league. There is a big difference between delivering hard hits and targeting the head. Meriweather targets the head. He leads with his head. He is the textbook example of how not to play defense in the NFL. Either Meriweather is going to end someone’s career with one of his illegal hits or he is going to end his own career. This will not end well if Meriweather doesn’t change his style. Someone is going to get hurt. I love hard hits on defense; it’s part of the fabric of the game. But Meriweather is reckless. I have no use for a guy like that. Neither should the NFL.