I want to alert everyone that I’ll be doing a live recapping of Sunday night’s game. Make sure to check back here on Sunday night to get my thoughts on how things are going. I will try to promptly post updates after every quarter.
As the Eagles attempt to move past last week’s defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings, the important question is: What kind of loss was it?
Was the loss due to the Vikings having a very good week? The Vikings may not have an impressive record, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of playing winning football. Matt Cassel isn’t a superstar, but it would be unfair not to give him credit for the way he played last week.
Was the loss due to the Eagles having a bad week? It’s hard for teams to play exemplary football every week of the season. Teams with superior talent can sometimes get away with sub par performances against weaker teams, but the Eagles don’t appear to be at that level quite yet.
If the loss was simply caused by a good week by the Vikings or a bad week by the Eagles, then it probably isn’t a huge concern. It might even serve as a wakeup call for some players who might have started to believe the growing hype.
I am concerned that the loss was something worse: An exposure loss. It’s possible that some glaring weaknesses of the Eagles – many of which had been obscured during the five game winning streak – were exposed. There are few secrets in the NFL, and if the Vikings demonstrated how to take advantage of the Eagles’ weaknesses (most notably on defense), then there’s a good chance that the Bears (as well as the Cowboys) will be studying the tape and figuring out how they can do the same.
What’s the Deal with the Bears?
For years, I had asked the question, “What type of Bears are the Chicago Bears?” and I was never able to get a definitive answer. Earlier this year, the television show New Girl helpfully pointed out that the Chicago Bears are brown bears. I am extremely thankful that this question has been answered, as I can now focus on more important matters like the Bears’ offense.
The Bears have long been associated with great defense. The 1986 team’s vaunted defense lifted the team to its only Super Bowl title, and their 2006 NFC Championship team was definitely carried by their defense. (Want proof? Rex Grossman was their quarterback! You don’t get to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as your starter unless you’ve got a really awesome defense.)
This year’s Bears are a little different, as their offense has scored the second most points in the NFL. There is a plethora of talent: Running back Matt Forte and receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are all dangerous weapons.
It hasn’t mattered who has been at quarterback. Jay Cutler missed parts of six games with an injury, but the team kept rolling behind backup Josh McCown. Last week, there was a question as to how the team would respond with Cutler back, but they answered that by scoring 38 points. (Sure, it was against the Browns, but that’s still a healthy total.)
On the other hand, the Bears defense hasn’t been as stout. They allow almost 28 points per game which ranks 28th in the NFL. They possess the league’s worst rushing defense, surrendering over 152 yards per game, and 17 touchdowns. This tells me that even if the Bears make a special effort to stop the running game, they probably won’t be able to do it. So Chip Kelly, if you happen to read this: It doesn’t matter how many men the Bears have lined up at the line of scrimmage. Give the ball to Shady!
Featured Bears Player: Jay Cutler
As mentioned, Jay Cutler is once again leading the Bears offense, which is apparently causing Bears fans a bit of anguish. The team was doing well with McCown at quarterback, so many people didn’t want to change things up, especially when most Bears fans aren’t quite sold on Cutler to begin with.
Cutler is talented, and will turn in games where he looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He’ll then follow those games up with poor performances which include decision-making so bad that it makes Bears fans long for the days of Rex Grossman. (Any Redskins fans who might be reading this are probably saying “They can have him.”)
Cutler also seems to have an extreme unlikeability about him. Earlier this year, he was listed as one of Forbes magazine’s “Ten Most Disliked athletes in America.” (Because when you want hard-hitting sports coverage, the first source you turn to is Forbes magazine!)
When he appeared on the television show “The League,” Cutler actually came off as funny and charming. I found myself liking him, but that might only be because his son apparently has the same nickname as my daughter.
It’s worth noting that my wife actually knows who Cutler is. “Oh yeah, he’s the guy who married Kristin Cavallari!” I might even be able to convince her to watch the game with me by telling her that Mrs. Cutler could be in the stands.
Remember how I said that Cutler can have some lousy performances? So far, that hasn’t happened when he’s played the Eagles. In three career games against them, he’s thrown seven touchdowns and only one interception.
Key Eagles Storyline
There has been some debate regarding the Eagles resting players in this game. If the Cowboys beat the Redskins earlier in the day, then the Eagles’ playoff hopes will hinge entirely on the result of next week’s game. In that situation, would it make sense to give some of the starters the week off?
Andy Reid was a big fan of resting players for meaningless games, but it doesn’t sound like Chip Kelly has any intention of doing so. I think he wants to get everyone back on the field after last week’s disappointment.
While the game might not affect the Eagles’ ability to make the playoffs, it could very well alter their seeding if they do get in. A win over the Bears would give the Eagles the edge for the third seed in the NFC. The difference between the third and fourth seeds might not seem like much, but it could bring the Eagles a much more favorable opponent, and possibly even allow them to have an additional home game.
Foles made some mistakes last week, but it’s a positive sign that even a relatively poor week had its fair share of good moments.
One thing that concerns me: Last week, Kelly pretty much put the game on Foles’ shoulders, and he wasn’t quite up to the task. This statement could be used as the epitaph for the Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb era. There were too many playoff games where Reid made it McNabb’s game to win, and he didn’t get the job done.
I thought that at least a couple of those McNabb games could have been won if the running game had been emphasized more. Similarly, could last week’s game have gone differently if the running game was featured a bit more? Probably, but if we’re talking long-term outlook, then I want to see Foles succeed if such a situation comes around again.
Even quarterbacks on teams with run-based offenses need to step up and make some big plays during a playoff run. I used to think Joe Flacco would only win a Super Bowl if the running game and defense carried him there, but last year, he made a ton of big throws en route to a title.
Will Foles be able to do the same if the situation calls for it?
Elsewhere in the NFL
If the Redskins can find a way to beat the Cowboys, then the Eagles can clinch the division with a win on Sunday. It seems unlikely that the Redskins could win that game, but they appeared somewhat feisty last week in their loss to the Falcons.
It seems bizarre that a team could turn the ball over seven times, and still have the game come down to a failed two-point conversion in the final minute. Was that a sign of resilience? Or was it just an indication that the Falcons aren’t especially good either? (Confession: I picked the Falcons to win the Super Bowl before the season. Oops.)
Chappelle’s Show Skit that Relates to this Week’s Game
Jay Cutler receives a lot of hate. He should be very thankful that he never crossed paths with these guys:
The Week in Andy
After 13 years together, many Eagles fans are feeling some Andy Reid withdrawal. I’ve decided to help them out by providing a weekly look at what Big Red is up to in Kansas City.
The scene: Reid is in his office when quarterback Alex Smith enters.
Smith: Hey, coach.
Smith: Alex. Alex Smith. Starting quarterback.
Reid: Right! Alex Smith! How can I help you?
Smith: Well, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something.
Reid: Sure, I’ve always got time to talk to…you said you’re the quarterback, right?
Smith: Yes. See, on other teams, the coaches sometimes let the quarterback change the plays at the line of scrimmage.
Reid: Whaaaat? Why the hell would they let them do that?
Smith: It’s actually not that uncommon. It’s called an audible.
Reid: Did you say audible? Oh! That’s what the guy I had in Philly used to talk about sometimes! You mean, he was changing the plays I called?
Smith: Yes, sometimes a quarterback sees something and he realizes that the play that was called isn’t going to work as well as a different one. So he changes the play.
Reid: So that’s why the plays didn’t always look right! I just assumed they were goofing up. Wow. Next time I talk to that guy who used to play in Philly – you know the guy I mean?
Smith: Donovan McNabb?
Reid: That’s him! Next time I talk to him, I’m going to give him a piece of my mind!
Smith: Okay, so if I just went ahead and audibled, you’d have no clue, huh?
Reid: No, don’t do that! No changing my plays! I worked way too hard on them!
Smith: Sure thing, coach. Sure thing.
Final Take and Prediction
This game looks like it has the makings of a shootout, and despite having a quick strike offense, the Eagles haven’t fared well in shootouts. They’ve won some higher scoring games, but those have mostly come when the Eagles got off to an early lead and the opponent was attempting a comeback.
The Eagles will score their share of points, but I have a suspicion that the Bears will score just a few more.
Bears 37 – Eagles 31
Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back on Sunday night!