Well, what do you know? The Bears came from behind to win their third straight game against a resurgent Eagles team that was an 8-point favorite to win at home last night on Monday Night Football. The Bears had a pretty solid game plan: 1) Run the ball; 2) Protect Jay Cutler; 3) Contain Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. They succeeded on all three counts. The Bears out rushed the NFL’s leading rushing team 164-119. RB Matt Forte led all rushers last night with 133 yards on 24 carries (5.5 avg.). Marion Barber chipped in 31 yards on 9 carries and a TD late in the first half. They also held explosive RB LeSean McCoy to only 71 yards on 16 carries (4.4 avg.); though he did break free for a 33 yard TD run in the 3rd quarter to put the Eagles up 24-17. Vick was confused most of the night as he completed 21 of 38 passes for 213 yards and 1 INT. Finally, Jay Cutler wasn’t sacked once last night. He was hurried at times, but was able to scramble out of the pressure and make plays on the run. He ended up the night 18 of 32 for 208 yards and 2 TD’s.
The import of this victory cannot be overstated. The Eagles had won two in a row and were averaging well over 400 yards per game of offense as well as leading the league in rushing. The Bears not only managed to contain the Eagles two biggest weapons, but also held their offense to 100 yards under their season average. They accomplished this by moving away from their patented “Tampa-2” defense — a base Cover-2 defense with two deep safeties. It’s a “bend but don’t break” defense meant to keep big plays to a minimum. It works for the Bears because they have athletic LB’s who can drop back in the zone and make plays. However, it’s also predicated on being able to generate a pass rush with the four down linemen. If that doesn’t happen, a good QB can pick the Cover-2 apart. Just watch the games against Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers), New Orleans (Drew Brees), Detroit (Matthew Staffor) and Carolina (Cam Newton). The Bears shelved the Cover-2 for most of the night and played a combination of 3-Deep zone and Cover-1, which confused Vick most of the night. Plus, the Bears physical CB’s were able to muscle the Eagles smaller WR’s most of the game, which broke Vick’s rhythm.
More importantly for the Bears, they not only creep one game closer in the NFC North race, but they have the all-important tie breakers against most of the leading NFC candidates for the 2nd wild card spot. The four division leaders are: San Francisco, Green Bay, New Orleans and New York. Detroit has the first WC position with a 6-2 record and a game in hand against the Bears. The Bears have the second WC position at 5-3. They’re tied with Atlanta, but because the Bears beat Atlanta, they get the nod. The Bears have also beat Tampa Bay (4-4) and Philadelphia (3-5) who are also in the hunt. As the saying goes: The Bears have their fate in their own hands. If they keep winning, they will make the playoffs.
As for the game highlights, the Bears opened the scoring on a 5 yard TD pass from Cutler to TE Matt Spaeth. They extended their lead to 10-0 on a 51 yard FG from Robbie Gould in the 2nd quarter. Then the Eagles tied the game on a 47 yard FG by Alex Henery and a 22 yard fumble return for a TD by DE Brian Rolle. The fumble came on an outlet pass from Cutler to Forte in the left flat. Rolle forced the fumble and recovered it himself for the score. Marion Barber gave the Bears back the lead with a 2 yard TD plunge at the end of the first half.
With the Bears leading 17-10 at the half, the Eagles came back into the game by dominating the 3rd quarter. The Eagles took the opening possession and completed an 80 yard, 17 play drive that took up 6:42 off the clock and scored on a Ronnie Brown 4 yard TD run. After Matt Forte’s second fumble of the night, the Eagles took only two plays to take the lead on McCoy’s 33 yard TD run. The Bears managed to cut the lead to 24-20 after Gould knocked his second FG through from 38 yards. As much as the 3rd quarter was the Eagles’, the 4th quarter was the Bears’. They regained the lead on a 5 yard TD pass from Cutler to WR Earl Bennett, who was making his first appearance since week #1. The Bears added an insurance FG with 4:00 to go in the game when Gould kicked his third FG of the night (22 yards). The Eagles last gasp attempt ended in a fizzle when Vick connected with WR Jeremy Maclin on a 4th and 10 pass play that fell one yard short. The pass was a bit high and behind Maclin and he tripped after making the catch. The Bears were able to run out the clock from that point on.
Now the rewards…
THE GOOD: The Bears’ running game. They gained 164 yards on 34 carries (4.8 avg.) and one TD. The success in the running game helped the Bears win time of possession and keep Vick and company off the field. Forte notched his 4th 100-yard rushing game in his last five attempts. Forte is now the 2nd leading rusher in the NFL and still leads the league in yards from scrimmage. The only downer for the night were Forte’s two fumbles, both of which led to Philadelphia TD’s.
THE BETTER: The Bears’ defense. They held the Eagles to ‘only’ 330 yards of total offense — a full 100 yards off their season average. They also held in check two of the most dangerous offensive players in the game in Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. Their coverage schemes confused Vick and forced an interception early in the game. They were a little lax on third down conversions allowing the Eagles to convert 8 of 14 chances, which allowed them to extend drives. Despite that they turned in a very solid performance against a dangerous offensive team in a hostile environment.
THE BEST: Jay Cutler and the Bears’ passing game. The OL didn’t allow a single sack the entire game. That’s the first time that happened in I don’t know how long. Cutler looked poised and made several improvisational throws that kept drives alive and showcased his talent. The return of Earl Bennett really helped the passing game as it gives Cutler his most reliable receiver on 3rd downs.
Next up: The Detroit Lions at Soldier Field