How the Bears and Eagles match up
BY MARK POTASH Staff Reporter December 21, 2013 5:42PM
Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy celebrates has he crosses the goal line for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
RICK MORRISSEY: Eagles, 38-31
RICK TELANDER: Eagles, 30-27
DAN McGRATH: Eagles, 45-42
HUB ARKUSH: Eagles, 41-37
ADAM L. JAHNS: Bears, 34-28
MARK POTASH: Bears, 49-48
PATRICK FINLEY: Bears, 41-35
WEEK 16 BEARS AT EAGLES Time:
BEARS AT EAGLES
Time:7:30 p.m. Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field
Line: Eagles by 3
Total: 55 1/2
TV: Ch. 5 (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth)
Radio: 780-AM, 105.9-FM
Were Jay Cutler’s INTs vs. the Browns a matter of rust or Cutler being Cutler? The Bears’ QB will have plenty of opportunities vs. the Eagles but also has to avoid the mistakes the Eagles depend on. Eagles CB Bradley Fletcher was burned by a variety of Vikings WRs last week. He and the rest of the secondary will be on the spot vs. the Bears talented WRs.
ON THE GROUND
Matt Forte has had three consecutive 100-yards games (67 carries, 349 yards, 5.2 ypc) to move up to third in the NFL in rushing (258, 1,200, 4.7, 7 TDs) behind the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy (1,343, 5.0, 7) and the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson (1,221, 4.6, 10). But success is no sure thing against an Eagles run defense that ranks sixth in the NFL in yards per carry allowed (3.8). In fact, the Eagles have allowed 2.8 ypc in their last 3 games (90 carries, 255 yards). Still, the Bears’ ascending offense has myriad ways of using Forte and seems to be staying a step ahead of even good run defenses.
IN THE AIR
Cutler figures to be better in his second start since coming back from a high ankle sprain last week against the Browns — physically and mentally. ‘‘Last week was a tough week with everything surrounding it,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘So being able to move on from that, I think this week is a tougher week, game plan-wise for us, but we should be up for the challenge Sunday.” The Eagles are 31st in the NFL in passing defense (292 ypg) after the Vikings’ Matt Cassel threw for 350 yards against them last week. The Eagles have allowed eight 100-yard receivers this season, but only in the last five games.
WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL
Bears LB Lance Briggs is expected to play after missing 7 games with a fractured shoulder. His conditioning could be an issue vs. the Eagles’ offense, but he’s an upgrade just by being on the field. Bears have done well vs. elite WRs, but DeSean Jackson is tough to handle — he has 8 receptions of 40 yards or longer this season, including 5 of 50 or more.
ON THE GROUND
The Bears snapped a streak of 6 consecutive 100-yard rushers vs. the Browns, but the challenge is far greater vs. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy. McCoy has rushed for 150 yards or more in four games this season, with a high of 217 vs. the Lions. The challenge for a Bears defense ranked 32nd vs. the run is the same: ‘‘We just have to do our jobs — be assignment-sound, play fast, and we’ve got to get a lot of guys to the ball,’’ DC Mel Tucker said. DT Jeremiah Ratliff was an impact player in his third game with the Bears last week, and the expected return of Briggs should give the Bears a fighting chance.
IN THE AIR
QB Nick Foles doesn’t fit the prototype of Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense, but maybe that’s the secret to Kelly’s success. His offense has turned Foles into the leading passer in the NFL — 23 TDs, 2 INTs and a 117.0 passer rating in 11 games (8 starts). Foles as a variety of weapons that might exceed the Bears — WRs Jackson (75-1,275, 17.0, 9 TDs), Riley Cooper (41-743, 18.1, 7) and Chicagoan Jason Avant, TEs Zach Ertz and Brent Celek and McCoy (45-507, 11.3, 1 TD). Foles has 6 of the Eagles’ 10 pass plays of 46 yards or longer. The Bears have yet to allow a pass play of longer than 45 yards.
Kelly’s up-tempo offense is not a gimmick but is an adjustment for every opponent and will challenge a Bears defense that has trouble against offenses operating at any pace. The Eagles are second in the NFL in yards per play. More important, they lead the NFL in first-down yardage (6.7 yards per play), which is where it all starts. The Bears’ defense is 28th in first-down yardage allowed (6.1). ‘‘We have to make sure we’re on the same page,’’ Bears DC Mel Tucker said. ‘‘We have to get the call in quickly. We have to get aligned very quickly and make sure we communicate. Then, when the ball is snapped, we’ve got to go play.”
The Bears’ coverage teams have been excellent — the Bears have improved from 30th to second in punt coverage in the last 11 weeks and from 30th to 17th in KO coverage in the last 8. Eagles punt returner DeSean Jackson is not having a big year (4.5-yard average, 32 long, with a 54-yard TD nullified by penalty), but he’s a threat any time he’s back there. ‘‘He’s explosive. He’s a gamer. He does a great job,’’ Bears ST coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. ‘‘They’ve done a good job of blocking for him. We just have to do a good job of controlling him.’’ Devin Hester was one block away from breaking one last week. As always, he’s due.