Ron Rivera understands what the Chicago Bears are going through.
In his first three seasons as coach in Washington, the former Bears linebacker and assistant dealt with one off-the-field distraction after another, from the NFL and Congress investigating owner Dan Snyder’s dealings to the Drug Enforcement Administration raiding the facility and home of trainer Ryan Vermillion.
Earlier this season, Rivera relished a line of questions about the long snapper situation because if that was the Commanders’ biggest problem, it’s good to just be worried about football.
“Things have changed, and it’s been different,” he said. “It’s been refreshing.”
Not so much with the Bears, who are mired in chaos off the field and winless on it. They visit Washington on Thursday night with a player in exile for undisclosed reasons, their defensive coordinator gone for what he said was health and family reasons and little reason to believe they’re primed for their first victory in nearly a year.
“When you lose, we’ve lost a couple games here this year, for me, everybody has frustrations,” said Matt Eberflus, who has lost more than a couple of games – 18 of 21 games actually – since taking over as Chicago’s coach. “But you got to be able to control your emotions and focus on the task at hand.”
The task at hand is a prime time matchup against the Commanders, who are 2-2 after back-to-back losses but feeling better about themselves after pushing defending NFC East champion Philadelphia to overtime. Moral victories don’t amount to a hill of beans in the NFL, but players see the upcoming schedule starting with the Bears and know this is the time to stack wins.
“We’ve got a lot of games in front of us that are, for sure, winnable,” second-year receiver Jahan Dotson said. “We should do pretty well during this little stretch.”
Upcoming for Washington are games at Atlanta and the New York Giants, who have been outscored 94-15 in their three losses. But first the 0-4 Bears, who are coming off blowing a 21-point lead to lose to Denver.
And that’s just the start of the problems at Halas Hall, where receiver Chase Claypool is no longer welcome to work at. Eberflus declined to say why he and general manager Ryan Poles asked Claypool to stay away from the team.
“We feel right now this is the best decision for us,” Eberflus said.
The drama surrounding Claypool comes after defensive coordinator Alan Williams abruptly resigned earlier this season and franchise quarterback Justin Fields suggested he was being overcoached, comments he tried to walk back later the same day. Fields on the field has rebounded; he’s coming off throwing for a career-best 335 yards and four touchdowns against the Broncos, which is one glimmer of hope for the Bears, who last won a game on Oct. 24, 2022.
“You want to win,” Fields said. “I’d rather throw for 50 yards with three picks and we still win the game than what happened this past Sunday. At this point, winning is just the No. 1 thing on my mind.”
Same for the Commanders, who because of their favorable, last-place schedule could be in the mix for a wild-card spot if they get on track. Despite FanDuel Sportsbook setting Washington as a 5 1/2-point favorite, receiver Terry McLaurin insisted he and his teammates aren’t taking Chicago lightly.
Left tackle Charles Leno, who played his first seven pro seasons with the Bears before being surprisingly released, also knows better than to underestimate his former team.
“Chicago, I don’t care what’s going on out there, but I guarantee you their players and their coaches are telling their team they can come in here on Thursday night to Washington and try to kick our (butts) in our house,” Leno said. “That’s what I’m worried about. That’s what I care about.”
MOORE OF THAT, PLEASE
The Bears expected big things from DJ Moore when they acquired him from Carolina for the No. 1 pick in the draft. He finally delivered last week.
Moore caught eight passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. He had 11 receptions for 170 yards combined in the first three games.
It helped the Bears were moving Fields in and out of the pocket. He looked more comfortable throwing the ball.
“I do think we took a step closer in finding our identity as an offense, so that’s always a positive,” Fields said.
SLINGIN’ SAM HOWELL
Even in a losing effort, Commanders starting quarterback Sam Howell bounced back in a big way against the Eagles. After throwing four interceptions and getting sacked nine times in a blowout loss to Buffalo, Howell had 330 yards combined in the air and on the ground and avoided a turnover at Philadelphia.
Howell goes into just his sixth pro start looking to build off that performance.
“The more games that we play collectively as an offensive unit, the better we’ll be,” Howell said. “The more we get more comfortable with ( first-year offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy ) calling the game and just everybody, – the whole process, players, coaches, everybody included – the more we can do that together, the better we’ll be.”
The Bears doubled their sack total last week, though that’s hardly a point of pride for them.
Chicago remains at the bottom of the NFL with two on the season after taking down Russell Wilson once last week. The New York Giants, who are 31st, have twice as many.
Then again, the Bears could have some opportunities this week. No one has allowed more sacks this season than the Commanders’ 24.
“We have to remind ourselves about getting off the ball, being able to play fast and physical, and those opportunities will present themselves,” said defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who has one sack – in the opener against Green Bay.
Rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes had a rough day against the Eagles trying to cover A.J. Brown with Jalen Hurts throwing the ball his direction early and often. Brown finished with a game-high nine catches for 175 yards and two TDs.
Targeted 25 times and allowing 18 catches for a league-worst 356 yards, the first-round pick out of Mississippi State had a reassuring conversation with Rivera after the game and hasn’t gotten down on himself.
“I’m still the same person, confident in my game, knowing what I can and can’t do,” Forbes said. “I just got to dial in to the smaller details. … I just got to make the best of my opportunities when they do target me.”
AP Sports Writer Andy Seligman in Lake Forest, Illinois, contributed.
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