Editor’s Note: Staff writer Steve Fini breaks down some key factors in tonight’s Eagles-Bears game.
When the Eagles have the ball:
Chicago plays a strict cover two base defense and rarely moves away from that. their middle linebacker, Brian Urlacher, is great at getting a deep drop in the middle of the field and reading a quarterback’s eyes. Chicago doesn’t blitz very often and they play a “bend but don’t break” style, forcing teams into making plays in the red zone instead of giving up the big play.
Along their defensive line, the Bears have some very good athletes. Julius Peppers might be the most physically gifted defensive lineman in the NFL, and Israel Idonije is no slouch himself. The biggest problem for the Eagles and quarterback Michael Vick is how long these defenders are. Vick has had a big problem with getting his passes batted at the line of scrimmage. going up against two defensive linemen that are 6’6, with backup Corey Wooten at 6’7, is a scary thought for the Eagles offense. while the Eagles offensive line has come together in recent weeks there are still concerns. Pass protection is still a work in progress and Eagles center Jason Kelce sometimes gets bullied around. Luckily, the Bears defense doesn’t blitz much. therefore, communication won’t be as much of a concern and Philly can just concentrate on their assignments.
Chicago’s tendency to shy away from the blitz should help LeSean McCoy. one area of his game that is still sub-par is his blocking. This game should allow for him to get out of the backfield and be Michael Vick’s checkdown receiver. his rushing totals have been great but his receiving totals haven’t been what they were in the past. This is mainly because teams like to blitz the Eagles and get Vick out of his comfort zone. look for the Bears’ great linebackers, Urlacher and Lance Briggs, to spy McCoy quite a bit.
Chicago’s secondary is the weakness of their team. Charles Tillman was once a very good corner, but he’s really fallen off this season. The bigger area of concern for the Bears is the two rookie safeties. Major Wright and Chris Conte were both given starting jobs after Brandon Meriweather and Chris Harris struggled. with Chicago’s cover two defense these rookies will be looked upon to cover both Jeremy Maclin and Desean Jackson deep. look for Jackson to get behind one of these safeties early and break a big play.
When the Bears have the ball:
The Bears gave up a lot in the trade for Jay Cutler. while playing well at times, he hasn’t been the superstar a lot of experts projected. he has one of the strongest arms in the NFL, but tends to make mistakes, especially when hit early in the game. The Bears don’t have a particularly strong offensive line and their offensive coordinator Mike Martz tends to forget about pass protection at key junctures. The Eagles’ defensive line should have a field day teeing off on Cutler.
Before the Eagles get to Cutler, however, they are going to have to stop running back Matt Forte. This game creates a unique matchup between maybe the two best running backs in the NFL this season. Unlike McCoy, Forte is a between the tackles runner who can run you over. He’s had a contract dispute all year which seems to add more anger to his running style. The Eagles have cut down on their “wide nine” splits in recent weeks in an attempt to better stop the run. It has worked, but they haven’t faced a player like Forte. The Eagles need to concentrate more on gang tackling with Forte and having the first defender hold him up instead of trying to make a solo tackle. he doesn’t go down easily and is surprisingly slippery for a big back. Luckily for the Eagles, the Bears don’t have a tight end to worry about in this game. that means defensive coordinator Juan Castillo can commit more defenders to Forte in both the run and pass.
Outside of Forte, the worries for the Eagles are few. while receiver Roy Williams has been playing better, he still isn’t what he used to be. Cutler and Johnny Knox have a connection, but Knox isn’t someone who can take over a game. The only concern for the Eagles will be slot receiver Dane Sanzenbacher. He’s the kind of guy who just knows how to get open. he finds holes in the coverage and can take advantage of defenders not respecting his ability. he can keep drives going and make big catches in key moments.
Prediction: The Eagles sit at 3-4 on the season. After a blowout win against Dallas they should be feeling good about themselves. But they better not be too confident. both the Giants and Cowboys got a win yesterday so the Eagles still sit behind both teams in the division race. Winning against the Bears at home is almost a must to keep pace. Turnovers will again be a key to this game but so will special teams. Rookie kickers Alex Henery and Chaz Henry need to keep the ball away from Bears returner Devin Hester. he can break a game open by himself and create a short field for the Bears to use Forte. Henery will also be called upon to maybe make a key field goal or two tonight. He’s been shaky this season and hasn’t looked comfortable. in a close game he could make all the difference. while the Bears can run the football, their passing attack and turnovers should be in Philly’s favor. having two rookie safeties should have Vick and Jackson salivating about the possibility of huge plays. if the Eagles don’t give this game away and can neutralize Hester, it shouldn’t be as close as people predict. Chicago’s defense is getting old and Brian Urlacher can’t keep taking games over himself, can he? Eagles win 32-24.
Tags: Eagles-Bears matchups, predictions
LINCOLN FINANCIAL FIELD – One play turned the first half completely on its head…until another flipped it right back around again.
Ultimately, the half ended with a pair of costly Eagles blunders and the Bears took a 17-10 lead into halftime.
The Eagles had managed to pull even at 10-10 following a Brian Rolle strip-and-score late in the first half. The defense came up with a stop on the ensuing possession as well, but DeSean Jackson fumbled the punt away setting Chicago up on their doorstep.
It looked like Juan Castillo’s unit would limit the damage to a field goal until Jason Babin was whistled for a late hit on third down. Marion Barber punched it in moments later to take the lead.
After two solid wins over divisional opponents, the Eagles more closely resembled the disjointed team that stumbled to a 1-4 record for much of the first half.
The run defense was gutted for 72 yards and Michael Vick through an untimely interception as the Bears jumped out to a 10-0 lead.
But then came a giant momentum swing. As the half was winding down, Matt Forte took a swing pass from Jay Cutler along the left side and made a move on Rolle. The rookie linebacker took a swing before Forte got past him and was able to knock the ball loose, then scooped it up and ran 22 yards for the touchdown to knot the game at 10-10.
But Jackson gave it right back.
Forte was the primary focus all week, but he was still able to spring loose for 62 yards. The defense, which appeared to have found its stride in recent weeks, seemed confused and out of sorts at times.
Injuries didn’t help matters any: Nate Allen left in the first quarter with a concussion, and Asante Samuel was also knocked out for a spell with a groin laceration.
The first-quarter numbers were about as bad as it gets. Chicago had seven first downs to the Eagles’ one, was 4-for-5 on third down, and outgained the Eagles 119-36 yards. LeSean McCoy was limited to six yards on three carries.
McCoy found some operating room in the second quarter and the offense started to move, but Vick forced a throw to Jackson that was intercepted by Major Wright early in the second after being tipped by Lance Briggs.
Some other observations:
– with the Bears facing a 3rd-and-7 on their opening drive, Cutler hooked up with Earl Bennett on a 14-yard completion. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie appeared to pull up on the play. He also missed a tackle on Chicago’s second-quarter drive that resulted in a 51-yard Robbie Gould field goal.
– Brandon Graham was active for the first time this season and got plenty of snaps with Juqua Parker sidelined (ankle). The former first-round pick was able to generate a little pressure, and even started a series opposite Trent Cole. The defensive front was held at bay overall, however, giving Cutler plenty of time to operate.
– Alex Henery hit a 48-yard field goal, but barely. The ball just snuck in over the bar and banged a post on the way in. his previous high as a pro was 38 yards.
Follow Tim McManus on Twitter: @Tim_McManus. Contact him at
(The following is a Eulogy for the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles with quotes from Julius Caesar spattered throughout..not very coherently but Shakespearian none the less.)
Friends, Philadelphians, Eagles Fans…
Friends, Philadelphians, Eagles fans, lend me your ears; I come to bury the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles, not to praise them. as the seconds ticked off the clock in Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, it became perfectly clear that this team is dead. sure, there are 11 games left and this still remains a talented team; but for all intents and purposes, this season is over. the so called Dream Team played more like a nightmare through the first 5 games of this season. there have been 100 teams that have started 1-4 since 1990 (a fact that fans were reminded of repeatedly during the broadcast). Of those 100 teams only 5 have made the playoffs. 5 out of 100. Not even the most degenerate gambler would take those odds. so here we sit having just buried our can’t lose baseball team, mourning the loss of our overhyped football team. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
Hey guys, remember me?
The Dream Team. sure it was a quote said in jest by a backup quarterback that may or may not have been taken out of context. We all bought into the hype. We thought we had a Super Bowl contender. are we just as much to blame for the pain we feel? We are here with heavy hearts but why? you blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things O you hard hearts, you cruel fans of Philadelphia, knew you not Rich Kotite?
I’m in over my head
How did this happen? What went wrong? We could go back and forth but there’s one thing for sure; it starts with the coaching staff. Let’s start with defense. Could Juan Castillo be out of his element? is it possible he is just a figure head? Defensive line coach Jim Washburn likes to run the now infamous wide 9. is this truly Castillo’s defense? or is Washburn pulling the strings behind the scenes. In theory the Wide 9 is not a bad defense. In Philly it hasn’t worked due to the Eagles ineptitude at linebacker. the front office put their faith in Casey Mathews who is very undersized for a linebacker. He has proven that it takes more than a famous bloodline to be successful in the NFL. the other linebackers shall remain nameless basically because they are just that; nameless. the Eagles defense has been run over by Cadillac Williams, Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, Frank Gore and Fred Jackson like Bo Jackson would run over people in Tecmo Bowl. the wide 9 has been a big bust, but for my own part, it was Greek to me. (and apparently to the Eagles defense as well).
The secondary was supposed to be the strength on this defense. with all the hype behind signing Nnamdi Asomugha and trading for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie along with Pro Bowler Asante Samuel, why not? Well 3 interceptions, missed tackles too numerous to count, and an NFC leading 11 passing touchdowns given up is hardly dream team worthy. Andy Reid and the defensive coaching staff have outthought themselves. Yond, Andy Reid used to have a lean and hungry look; such men are dangerous. Now, he just looks befuddled..and hungry; those men are not.
Time for a divorce?
Speaking of Andy, he’s still up to his same old shenanigans. when is he finally going to do a better job of getting his players ready? It’s been 13 years and it’s still the same old song. after every game it’s the same thing. It’s time to end this 13 year marriage. Someone’s head needs to roll and it has to be Andy’s. Who else has a say in the play calling, personnel decisions, game management, and getting the player’s prepared for game day? Yep, Andy Reid. Men at some time are masters of their fates: the fault, dear Andy, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. You’ve had your chance. the time to move on is now. Time’s yours…
Finally, the offensive stars are not without fault here either. the Eagles defense is not the only part of the team doing their best Tecmo Bowl impersonation. the offensive line at times has looked like when you call the right play on defense in Tecmo Bowl and the entire defense is in the backfield. there is no excuse to allow the defense in the backfield before the quarterback can hand the ball off. Michael Vick is taking a ton of hits. Not all of them are the fault of the Swiss cheese offensive line. there have been times that Vick has simply held on to the ball too long. is it because he can’t read the defense? is it that the receivers are not getting open? Who knows but something is wrong. Shady McCoy has done well running the ball but is it because he’s running for his life? This was the noblest Eagle of them all.
Finally our playmakers are not making the plays. Perhaps they are trying too hard. there is no excuse for a -10 turnover ratio on a Dream Team. Whether it’s fumbles, tipped balls that lead to interceptions, interceptions or dropped balls; the playmakers are not making the plays. even the sure handed Jason Avant is turning the ball over despite having a career year. et tu, Jason so my fellow Eagles fans I stand before you today to say goodbye. Goodbye to the hopes of winning Super Bowl 46.
Thanks to all of our loyal readers. Remember Twitter @Obs_Views_Blog and Facebook. Also find me on LinkedIn (Jim Montgomery). until next time this is Jimbo saying; Bear with me; my heart is in the coffin there with the Eagles season, and I must pause till it come back to me. 2012 is another year.