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Hub Arkush: Must win? No, but Bears must be better vs. Washington

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky runs against the Broncos on Sept. 15 in Denver. The Bears will visit Washington on Monday.
Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky runs against the Broncos on Sept. 15 in Denver. The Bears will visit Washington on Monday.

There is a lot the Bears need to get done in the nation’s capital Monday night, some critical, some getting more important every day and some nice to have but not worth worrying about yet.

It is too early in the season, especially at 1-1, to call this a must-win game. But with it looking more and more every day like the NFC North is going to be the best and most competitive division in football, and with the Packers at 3-0, Detroit 2-0-1 and Minnesota 2-1, it is awfully close to critical that the Bears don’t fall one or two games behind everybody.

It also is pretty critical that the Bears win this game with at least some meaningful contributions from the offense.

A meaningful offensive contribution would be something like Mitch Trubisky stepping up and converting a fourth-and-15 with nine seconds to play and making sure to get the clock stopped in time to kick a game-winning field goal.

As huge as that play was, however, it really was the Bears’ only quality play on last week’s game-winning drive, and they’re not going to win a lot of games that way.

It is conceivable that the Bears’ defense could win the next three against Washington, Minnesota and Oakland all by itself, but after the bye, the defense isn’t going to be beating the Saints, Chargers, Eagles, Lions and Rams without help, and it’s time for the offense to at least start to find itself.

It was interesting watching the Chiefs and Ravens on Sunday and seeing that the majority of big plays from Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson actually were only schoolyard plays after the original plays called had broken down.

The playmakers in addition to the two quarterbacks were receivers Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman for the Chiefs and Seth Roberts and Willie Snead for the Ravens.

The Bears clearly have receivers as or more capable of stepping up and making plays as those four.

What we don’t know is if Trubisky is capable of doing some of the things we saw from Mahomes and Jackson on Sunday, although I seriously doubt that he isn’t, or if coach Matt Nagy and company have such a tight leash on him that he’s unwilling or afraid to try.

It is getting more important every day that Trubisky gets turned completely loose, that he is focused far more on making big plays than worrying about making mistakes and that we find out once and for all what he is capable of.

It also is getting more important every day that we find out whether David Montgomery is a legitimate No. 1 running back or just another nice piece. And that the Bears get back to the way they used Tarik Cohen last year, as a legit running back, a receiver out of the backfield and an occasional slot receiver, as opposed to what we’ve seen so far this season.

There is no reason facing Washington’s 30th-ranked defense that the Bears shouldn’t be able to get all of that done.

Now, realizing how shaky Washington has been on defense, a 400-plus-yard, 30-plus-points explosion would be nice but isn’t really necessary yet.

On defense, the Bears already are the best in the league, but a few takeaways, which for the most part is all they’ve really lacked through two weeks, would add a little more mojo to the team overall, and although not critical, it would feel really good, wouldn’t it?

What the Bears absolutely cannot afford to do is think they’re good enough to split their focus on all that still needs to get better and the Vikings next week.

What else could stand in the Bears’ way?

It is clear after watching Sunday’s games that other than the Patriots and Chiefs on one end and the Dolphins and Cardinals on the other, after only three weeks we still don’t know how good or bad the rest of the NFL is.

But it seems a really safe bet that Washington isn’t going to beat the Bears if the Bears don’t help Washington.

• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at harkush@profootballweekly.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.