Rozner: Bears the gift that keeps on giving

  • Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland, middle, holds his interception while being lifted as Greg Toler (20) celebrates during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Chicago.

    Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland, middle, holds his interception while being lifted as Greg Toler (20) celebrates during the second half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 12/24/2016 6:10 PM

You could argue that there was no great reason to attend Saturday's game at Soldier Field.

Unable to make their case, most of those with tickets did not bother.

 

So the stadium was half-empty again -- for the fourth straight home game.

That's half a season, if you're keeping score at home.

Maybe the McCaskeys are doing just that.

Undoubtedly intended to be a Christmas gift for some when the seats were bought many months ago, having to attend a Chicago Bears home game now is more like punishment, or maybe someone's idea of a joke.

Not the funny kind, either. At least, not ha-ha funny. More like watching someone slip and fall on an icy sidewalk and hit their head on a curb.

But for the visiting team on Christmas Eve, the Bears were the gift that keeps on giving, an easy 41-21 victory for Washington, which was coming off a tough loss Monday night and a short week.

No matter. The try-hard Bears didn't try all that hard once Washington got them down in the game, and then they simply let Matt Barkley throw it to the wrong team over and over again.

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There would have been more boos if there had been more fans, but after the last interception those who stayed let their feelings be heard.

"The fans expect more. We expect more of ourselves," said receiver Cam Meredith. "There's been a lot of positives this year. We'll focus on that."

There's not much point in defending a guy with 5 interceptions, but aside from Alshon Jeffery, Barkley doesn't have much to throw to, and Jeffery has zero interest in playing football for the local heroes these days.

With Josh Norman blanketing him, Jeffery had 5 catches on 10 targets for 92 yards, but in the second half on five targets, Jeffery caught only 2 for 28 yards and the other three were picked off, twice by Norman.

"Barkley just kept throwing the ball. I was (bleeped) off. I came out in the second half (bleeped) off," Norman said. "I felt disrespected. I went to a dark place in my mind.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I said, 'Enough is enough.' God helped me out with that. I said a quick prayer. I said, 'Look man, get this out of here. Stop this (bleep).' I came out locked in and had a whole new half.

"Barkley kept throwing my way. I capitalized on that. That's the most opportunities I had all year.

"You gotta understand who you're throwing to and who you're throwing against. If you're going to throw at me, you're in for a long day."

It was indeed a long day for Barkley.

"I feel like on some plays, I just tried to win the game on that play and tried to do too much," Barkley said. "Those are the times when you have to eat it and live to see another play."

As if it weren't bad enough, John Fox finally figured out how to preserve time in the final two minutes of a game, this time in a game in which there was no reason to preserve time.

Twice in the final 1:14 he called timeout, so Washington merely ran it in from 61 yards out to add insult to insult with 68 seconds left in the game.

You have to wonder if that's the final time walking off Soldier Field for Fox as Bears head coach, though he does have two years remaining at $5 million a year, and that expense is the best thing he has going for him.

"Obviously, it's very disappointing," Fox said. "I feel bad for our fans. But better days are to come. We see improvement. It's not in our record, but I think we're closer than people think."

Fox said the same thing at this time last year when the Bears were finishing 6-10. On Sunday before a sparse crowd the Bears fell to 3-12, with a single game to play next week in Minnesota.

"I think sometimes when you come into a situation, you take some steps back before you take some steps forward," Fox said. "In my opinion, we are in a way better position to be in striking distance moving forward."

Striking distance moving forward.

Wow.

Exciting words to take with you into another dark and frigid January without a postseason game.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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