Velus Jones Jr. fell to the ground at the 9-yard line Thursday night at Soldier Field, and the football hit him in the face mask and bounced to the field.
The Chicago Bears rookie returner tried to jump on the fumble, but the Washington Commanders recovered it at the Bears 6-yard line.
Two plays later, Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. scored on a 1-yard run, and following a failed two-point conversion, the Commanders had a 12-7 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
A mistake like Jones’ muffed catch in a game in which the Bears failed to score from within 5 yards of the end zone three times was too much. The Commanders left Chicago with the ugly 12-7 win — their second of the season. The Bears (2-4) lost their third straight.
“We know that was a devastating blow,” Jones said. “I’m a man. I own up to my mistakes, and it was devastating blow.”
The Bears and quarterback Justin Fields had two chances to retake the lead, including a drive in the final two minutes in which they had first-and-goal from the 5-yard line following Fields’ 39-yard scramble.
But Fields ran for 1 yard and threw incomplete twice. He then hit Darnell Mooney with a 3-yard pass. Mooney made a leaping grab but bobbled it at first and eventually came down just short of the goal line after he had it under control. In the first half, the Bears failed to score twice after getting within 5 yards of the end zone and went into halftime down 3-0.
“There were multiple plays in that game that we could have made to change the whole game,” Fields said. “The summary is we didn’t finish. It doesn’t matter if you drive all the way down to the 5-, 1-yard line and don’t score.”
One drive before the short Mooney catch, the Bears drove to the Commanders 43-yard line, but a delay-of-game penalty on fourth-and-11 and a Fields incompletion to Ihmir Smith-Marsette on fourth-and-16 ended the threat.
Commanders kicker Joey Slye missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt wide left on the ensuing drive, giving the Bears one last chance.
Fields completed 14 of 27 passes for 190 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked five times.
He threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Dante Pettis to give the Bears a 7-3 lead midway through the third quarter. Pettis beat cornerback Kendall Fuller and just got his feet inbounds on a perfect pass to the left side of the end zone. The touchdown came on a free play after officials threw a flag for the Commanders having too many men on the field.
Fields stayed on the ground for several seconds after he was knocked down on the play but returned to the game on the next drive. He said later he was playing the game through a left shoulder issue that he reaggravated.
The Bears stopped the Commanders at the 10-yard line on their second drive of the second half when Justin Jones batted down Wentz’s pass on third-and-10. Slye made a 28-yard field goal to cut the Bears’ lead to 7-6.
The Bears had a chance to build on their lead after the defense came up with a big stop on the next drive, but Jones fumbled his second punt return in three games, the other in a loss to the New York Giants. He said he should have let the Thursday punt go into the end zone.
“That’s one I should have let go,” Jones said. “It came, and I was trying to make a play. Earlier in the game, the last one I caught I fair caught and I had a lot of space left. So rookie mistake. Just because it was a look then doesn’t mean it’s going to be a look the next time. That’s one I should have definitely let go.”
Said Bears coach Matt Eberflus: “The number one job of a kick returner or punt returner is to catch the ball, so we are going to have to look at that.”
Bears right guard Teven Jenkins briefly was out of the game to begin the second half with a shoulder injury, and Michael Schofield replaced him. But Jenkins returned when left guard Lucas Patrick left to be evaluated for a concussion. Schofield slid over to left guard. Patrick returned later in the half.
Here’s how Week 6 unfolded.
Wide receiver N’Keal Harry will not play for the Bears on Thursday as he continues to ramp up from August ankle surgery. Harry practiced in full Wednesday and did not have an injury designation, but the Bears declared him inactive.
Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy indicated Harry, who has had limited practice time with quarterback Justin Fields, still had ways to go before he would be ready to play in a game.
Cornerback Lamar Jackson, tight end Jake Tonges and defensive lineman Kingsley Jonathan are also inactive.
For the Commanders, wide receiver Jahan Dotson, tight end Logan Thomas, cornerback William Jackson III, safety Percy Butler, offensive tackle Sam Cosmi, running back Jonathan Williams and quarterback Sam Howell are inactive.
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Halftime: Bears trail Commanders 3-0
Twice the Chicago Bears got within 5 yards of the goal line in the first half Thursday against the Commanders at Soldier Field.
And twice the Bears couldn’t get in the end zone, instead going into halftime trailing 3-0.
The Bears and Commanders, teams with a combined three wins entering the nationally televised game, went scoreless for the first 29 minutes of the half before Commanders kicker Joey Slye made a 38-yard field goal for the lead.
The Bears got close to taking a lead on their second and third drives but couldn’t come through.
After the Bears marched to the Commanders 5-yard line on their second drive, quarterback Justin Fields’ pass intended for Cole Kmet bounced off a helmet, and defensive tackle Jonathan Allen intercepted it.
On the following drive, Bears running back Khalil Herbert ripped off a 64-yard run to get to the 6-yard line, and after a Commanders penalty for 12 men on the field, the Bears had first-and-goal at the 3.
But Herbert was stopped for no gain and Fields threw incomplete just beyond a wide-open Ryan Griffin in the end zone. After Fields gained 2 yards on a keeper, the Bears went for it on fourth-and-1, and Herbert was stuffed for no gain.
The Commanders sacked Fields twice in three plays on the Bears first drive, with Efe Obada taking him down for a loss of 9 yards on first down and Daron Payne forcing another 9-yard loss on third down.
Fields finished the half 7 of 14 for 89 yards and was sacked three times. He also rushed for 32 yards on six carries.
The Bears defense sacked Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz to end each of their first two drives, and he finished 5 of 14 for 57 yards.
Two pass interference penalties — 17 yards against Kyler Gordon and 15 yards against Jaylon Johnson — helped the Commanders on their scoring drive.
Prime has all of the league’s Thursday night games — the first time a streaming service has had the full rights to an NFL package. Amazon partnered with the league to stream 11 Thursday night games since 2017, but it took over the entire package from Fox Sports this year.
For local viewers, it’s a little easier if you aren’t a Prime subscriber. The Bears-Commanders game will be shown on Fox-32 starting at 7:15 p.m. You also can listen to the game on WBBM-AM 780 and WCFS-FM 105.9.
Progress on defense?
Entering Week 6, only the Seattle Seahawks (82) have allowed more first-half points than the Bears and Arizona Cardinals (80 each). As a result, the Bears (2-3) have trailed at halftime in all five games.
When Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins pushed ahead for a 1-yard run with 2 minutes, 26 seconds remaining Sunday, it was the first touchdown the Bears allowed in the second half this season. They have allowed 12 points in the third quarter and 14 in the fourth.
“If I knew the answer, I’d tell you,” linebacker Nicholas Morrow said of the drastic difference. “We’ve just got to come out earlier and execute at a higher rate. I don’t know if there is any true answer to it because it’s not a different set of players on the field in the second half than it is in the first. It’s the same players, same coaching staff. We’ve got to figure it out.”
Progress on offense?
“Tons of progress? I don’t like using those adjectives that are extreme,” Getsy said. “I’m just not that type of person. But, no, there has been progress. And we’re sticking to the plan.”
Step by step, the Bears remain persistent with their offensive evolution while resisting any urges to skip too far ahead or land on any exaggerated conclusions.
“Your goal is to just have progress all year,” Fields said. “Progress takes patience.”
- Brad Biggs’ 10 thoughts: Justin Fields’ Week 5 performance is no breakthrough — but it’s clear evidence of improvement
Latest news from Arlington Heights
A conceptual site plan for the Bears’ proposed redevelopment for a stadium and a residential and entertainment district in Arlington Heights got a mixed reception from village trustees at a Committee of the Whole meeting.
Trustees at the Committee of the Whole meeting were concerned about the density of the proposed transit-oriented development, why there was not yet a stadium rendering available and about whether the proposed development would hurt Arlington Heights’ current downtown area.