Young quarterbacks guide hungry Bears, Commanders into battle

Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell enters Thursday’s visit from the Bears with five career starts, 24 fewer than Chicago counterpart Justin Fields.

On the surface, that appears to be a considerable gulf. Hearing Howell’s teammates discuss his maturity, though, suggests that he can measure up when the teams meet in Landover, Md., in Week 5.

Howell exhibited expert decision-making in Sunday’s 34-31 overtime loss at Philadelphia, going 29-for-41 passing for 290 yards and a touchdown to Jahan Dotson on the final play of regulation. It was a notable turnaround from a four-interception effort in a lopsided loss to Buffalo in Week 3.

Make no mistake, making adjustments remains Howell’s mantra.

“That’s what he does, honestly,” Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin said. “Because he’s such a student of the game, he’s a quick learner. He learns from his mistakes … It’s really cool to see his maturation process game after game.”

Washington (2-2) and Chicago (0-4) are both in desperate need of a feel-good victory. That goes double — or arguably greater — for the Bears, who squandered a 21-point lead on the way to a 31-28 home loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Chicago has lost 14 straight games dating back to Week 8 of last season, allowing at least 25 points each time.

The bright side? Fields enjoyed his best statistical showing of the season against Denver, passing for a career-best 335 yards and four scores while completing 28 of 35 passes, including his first 16.

A fourth-quarter strip sack of Fields produced the game-tying touchdown, however, and Fields was intercepted on the team’s final possession.

“To be honest, I’d rather throw for 50 yards with three picks and we still win the game than what happened this past Sunday,” Fields said. “At this point, winning is just the No. 1 thing on my mind, so I’d rather do that than accomplish any individual goal or individual statistic that there is. I’m just trying to get a dub.”

Winless since Oct. 24, 2022, the Bears will aim for their first victory with a banged-up secondary. Jaylon Johnson (hamstring) and Eddie Jackson (foot) didn’t participate in early-week practices. However, Jackson said, “I’m feeling a lot better,” and his plan is to return against Washington.

Dotson (ankle) and fellow wide receiver Curtis Samuel (quad) were among four Commanders players limited at Tuesday’s practice.

McLaurin was the Commanders’ top target in Philadelphia with eight catches for 86 yards.

DJ Moore caught eight passes for 131 yards and a touchdown for Chicago, while Cole Kmet had seven receptions for 85 yards and two scores.

Wideout Chase Claypool won’t travel with the Bears, missing his second straight game. After telling reporters during the week of the Broncos game that he wasn’t being put to optimal use, the team again asked Claypool to stay home.

The Commanders edged the Bears 12-7 in Week 6 of last season, a Thursday night game played in Chicago.

Brian Robinson Jr. scored on a 1-yard run with 7:21 remaining to capitalize on a turnover two plays earlier, and Joey Slye connected on two field goals for Washington.

A 39-yard Fields run put the Bears at the Washington 5 late in the contest, but Chicago was unable to score a game-winning touchdown. A fourth-and-goal completion to Darnell Mooney was inches short of the goal line in the closing seconds.