Five Things We Learned: Bears-Eagles
November, 8, 2011
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com
Howard Smith/US PresswireLovie Smith has the Bears in good shape for the playoffs as they begin the second half of the season.PHILADELPHIA -- Here are Five Things We Learned following the Chicago Bears' 30-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.
1. Bears are in great shape: It was a critical win against Philadelphia for a variety of reasons. At 5-3, the Bears own the second NFC wild-card slot behind 6-2 Detroit (a team the Bears face Sunday at Soldier Field) and hold head-to-head tiebreakers over Atlanta, Tampa and Philadelphia. A loss would have dropped the Bears a game behind the Falcons and pulled the Eagles back into the playoff picture. But it didn't happen. Instead, it sets up a marquee matchup against the Lions and puts Lovie Smith's team in solid position to challenge for its second consecutive trip to the postseason. It's amazing how quickly things change in the NFL. A little less than a month ago the Bears seemed to be dead in the water after a Monday night loss at Ford Field. Now the Bears must be considered a serious contender in a conference that only has one true great team in Green Bay.
2. The offense was ready for the Wide 9: The Bears knew exactly how to counter those Eagles defensive ends. Time after time the offense left in extra blockers to max protect quarterback Jay Cutler, which neutralized Jason Babin and Trent Cole. On the occasions Philadelphia actually put heat on Cutler, the quarterback was able to escape and make plays down the field. Cutler, the offensive line and the coaching staff all deserve kudos for devising a game plan that didn't surrender a single sack for the first time since Nov. 12, 2009. It remains to be seen what happens when Gabe Carimi is ready to come back, but given the vast improvements in pass protection and run blocking, it might be tough for Mike Tice to alter the right side of the offensive line. And who knew Cutler had such moves in the pocket? As Earl Bennett put it, "Jay looked like Michael Vick a few times out there." Actually, Cutler looked a lot better than Vick on Monday night.
3. Matt Forte is human: Failing to protect the football is unacceptable, a fact that wasn't lost on Forte when discussing his pair of fumbles in the postgame locker room. Sometimes it's just not your night. But usually when a tailback coughs up the ball twice -- one fumble that resulted in an Eagles touchdown -- they don't rush for 133 yards and average 5.5 yards per carry. Even a bad game by Forte can be viewed in an extremely positive light. Still, it might not be a bad idea for Forte to lay low the next few weeks and refrain from discussing the contract situation until after the season wraps up. There's no evidence to link Forte's recent round of interviews with those fumbles, but some fans will understandably wonder if the all-purpose back thought too much about the extension heading into Week 9. Besides, how many more interviews can Forte do?
AP Photo/Matt SlocumMatt Forte rushed for 133 yards against the Eagles but fumbled twice, including one that was returned for a touchdown.
4. Brian Urlacher remains heart and soul of Bears' defense: Urlacher is playing like a guy in his third or fourth season, not No. 12. The middle linebacker recorded a team-high 11 tackles against Philadelphia, and barring a major upset or health setback, should be voted to his eighth Pro Bowl. When Urlacher is relatively healthy, the Bears are tough to beat. When Urlacher is out, the Bears under Smith tend to have bad years (2004 and 2009). Instead of wondering if Urlacher will be a Hall of Famer, let's take bets on how many more years Urlacher is going to play in the NFL. The general consensus a few years ago was Urlacher probably wouldn't reach the end of his current deal (which expires after 2012) which pays a base salary of $8.025 million in 2011 and $7.5 million in 2012. Now I'm starting to wonder if the Bears might end up doing one more deal with the middle linebacker before it's all said and done. Is Urlacher showing any signs of slowing down to you?
5. LeSean McCoy is special: Eagles fans already knew that, but watching McCoy in person was really enjoyable because he was easily the most electric player on the field Monday night. When McCoy touched the ball it felt like I was playing a video game. Thankfully for the Bears, the Eagles limited him to 16 carries and 21 overall touches. If I'm Andy Reid, I get the ball into McCoy's hands as much as possible every week. Forte has better numbers, but I bet McCoy gets the better contract extension. The Bears can bicker internally over whether or not Forte is an "elite" NFL running back, but that label seems to fit McCoy perfectly.