NFC North: 2013 Week 16 CHI at PHI

PHILADELPHIA -- As the seconds ticked away during a brutal 54-11 beating Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Corey Wootton peered at the scoreboard in disbelief.

“It’s embarrassing, honestly,” he said. “Looking on the sideline, when you see the score at the end of the game and they've put up 54 on you, it’s embarrassing.”

[+] EnlargeZack Bowman
Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty ImagesZack Bowman seemed at a loss after the Bears allowed another of the Eagles' six offensive TDs.
In addition to giving up 21 points in both the first and fourth quarters, the Bears surrendered 514 yards, including 289 on the ground, with LeSean McCoy running for 133 of them. Not only did Chicago allow one 100-yard rusher. Bryce Brown also carved up Chicago for 115 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, right through the middle of the Bears’ defense.

Considering the Bears have allowed at least one 100-yard rusher in 10 games this season, including veritable no-names such as Benny Cunningham and Brown, and another one to an aging Brandon Jacobs, it’s probably safe to assume Chicago’s defense won’t all of the sudden become stout in the finale against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday -- in a game with the NFC North crown and a postseason berth on the line. Traditionally, it’s been the defense that has helped the Bears stay in games. Currently, it’s that unit that could wind up keeping Chicago out of the playoffs.

It’s important to note that losses on Sunday by the Packers and the Detroit Lions meant that the Bears could have clinched the division title by defeating the Eagles. While ineptitude on offense contributed to the loss at Philadelphia, too often this season the defense has been the culprit.

“In the past years, we always stepped up when we needed to regardless of what the offense was doing,” Wootton said. “It just hasn’t been like that. If we want to make the playoffs or we want to make any type of run, we have to get this shored up. We talk about this every week.”

Philadelphia reeled off 10 plays for gains of 16 yards or more, with three of those plays coming on Nick Foles completions. The Eagles converted on 56 percent of their third-down attempts, and scored touchdowns on five trips into the red zone as Foles completed passes and McCoy either outran Bears defenders or outright made them miss.

The seven touchdowns scored by the Eagles were the most the Bears have allowed in franchise history (although one of the TDs was on an interception return). The 54 points rank as the second-most ever allowed by the Bears in franchise history.

“There’s a lot of different reasons we didn’t get this done today,” coach Marc Trestman said. “We’re all at fault. It starts with me. Nobody played well enough to win tonight.”

Trestman, Wootton, linebacker James Anderson and safety Craig Steltz all stressed that the coaching staff adequately prepared the players for what the schemes they’d see from the Eagles. The players simply didn’t execute.

“I do not think it was one special thing we did wrong,” safety Chris Conte said. “We just got our tails kicked today.”

Wootton said the Bears played the Eagles “the way we were supposed to” but “just didn’t make the plays when we needed to.”

Wootton also provided examples.

“If you look at it, they didn’t keep the ball really at all with Foles on the zone-reads. We knew they were gonna give the ball to McCoy,” Wootton said. “The one guy that was supposed to stay outside for contain would be there, then he’d miss the tackle. Or the guy wasn’t there when he was supposed to be. It was just stuff like that. But that can really gut you. That’s what they want to exploit on you. They want to make the one-on-one play and try to make you miss.”

The Eagles did that all night, with the rushing of McCoy and Brown and with Foles passing over the top of the Bears. Foles finished with a passer rating of 131.7, and although Chicago sacked him twice, the quarterback seemed to have plenty of time to find open receivers and deliver the ball.

“They just came out and brought it to us,” defensive end Julius Peppers said.

The Packers are capable of doing the same, even with hobbled running back Eddie Lacy -- who rushed for 150 yards against the Bears on Nov. 4 -- and Aaron Rodgers likely out. It’s not that Green Bay’s offense is as potent as Philadelphia’s. Chicago’s defense just appears to be that bad, with no real signs of improving.

“We certainly couldn’t stop the run,” Trestman said. “We’ve got to address is factually. We can’t deny the fact that we didn’t stop the run tonight. We’ve got to make sure they know why, and we’ve got to do what we can to get back to where we were previously the last couple of weeks when we really did feel we were ascending. We were getting better. You’re not where you ever want to be, but certainly [we were at] a place where we could be in a competitive environment, and get the ball back to the offense. There’s no one side of the ball that lost this one.”

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

December, 22, 2013

PHILADELPHIA -- Here are a few quick thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 54-11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field:

What it means: The drama of the NFC North race continues another week. With the perfect opportunity to clinch the division because of losses earlier in the day by the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, the Bears ran into a Philadelphia buzz saw and were shredded to pieces.

Because all three teams lost, Sunday’s matchup between the Bears and Packers at Soldier Field will decide the NFC North winner.

Given the chance to win the division, Chicago should’ve been plenty motivated to play against the Eagles. But this loss didn’t appear to be a result of a lack of effort by the Bears as much as a sign of how inadequately they appeared to be prepared on both sides of the ball to face the Eagles. On offense, Chicago’s offensive line struggled to protect quarterback Jay Cutler consistently, and the Eagles dropped him three times for sacks in the first half alone. Defensively, the Bears allowed LeSean McCoy to run roughshod. By the start of the fourth quarter, the running back had already torched Chicago’s defense for 95 yards and two touchdowns.

Rarity for Hester: Already down 7-0 after Nick Foles' 5-yard touchdown pass to Riley Cooper, the Bears suffered another crippling setback on the ensuing kickoff return. Devin Hester returned the kickoff 36 yards, but Bradley Fletcher stripped him at the end of the run with Cary Williams recovering. The recovery gave Philadelphia possession at the 39 with 9:45 left in the first quarter.

Prior to Sunday, the last time Hester suffered a lost fumble on a kickoff return was Oct. 25, 2009, in a 45-10 loss at Cincinnati, according to STATS Inc.

Offensive line horrid: Chicago’s revamped offensive line received plenty of publicity throughout the season for its dramatic improvement from last season, but the argument could be made that the unit caused most of the team’s struggles moving the ball against the Eagles.

By the start of the fourth quarter, Cutler had already taken five sacks, two from Mychal Kendricks and three from Trent Cole. Throughout the game, the quarterback rarely threw a pass without a defender in his face. Cutler also took several shots after throwing the ball.

The offensive line struggled to open holes for the rushing attack, too. Running back Matt Forte entered Sunday’s game coming off three consecutive 100-yard outings, only to finish with 29 on nine attempts. A third-quarter Forte attempt stuffed by Cedric Thornton for a 2-yard loss and a safety that made the score 26-3 pretty much summed up the offensive line’s performance against the Eagles: offensive.

Starters pulled: With eight minutes remaining and the Bears behind 47-11, coach Marc Trestman pulled several starters including Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Forte. Given the importance of Sunday’s season finale against the Packers, apparently Trestman didn’t want to risk injuring any of the key players in a game Chicago wasn’t going to come back and win.

What’s next: The Bears will take off Monday and Tuesday before returning to Halas Hall on Wednesday to begin preparations for the regular-season finale against the Packers. The winner of the matchup takes the NFC North crown.

Decision for Sunday in Briggs' hands

December, 20, 2013
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Much like the Chicago Bears' path to the NFC North title, Lance Briggs controls his own destiny.

The decision to play Briggs on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Eagles now rests solely in the hands of the seven-time Pro Bowler, after head coach Marc Trestman announced on Friday that Briggs has received the necessary medical clearance from team doctors to return to action for the first time since he fractured his shoulder on Oct. 10.

Trestman has been quoted on the record multiple times in the past couple of days saying he is “optimistic” that Briggs will be active against the Eagles, especially after the veteran linebacker had full participation in Friday’s practice inside the Walter Payton Center.

[+] EnlargeLance Briggs
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhLinebacker Lance Briggs, who last played Oct. 20 at Washington, has medical clearance to test his injured shoulder Sunday night against Philadelphia.
But Trestman stopped short of guaranteeing that Briggs will take the field against Chip Kelly's high-powered offense.


Though the odds seem favorable that Briggs will test out the shoulder Sunday night, likely on a limited snap count, it’s hardly a slam dunk.

The average NFL fracture takes six weeks to heal. Briggs himself originally declared that he would miss only three-to-four around the time the injury occurred. But three-to-four weeks turned into eight weeks and seven missed games as Briggs experienced unexpected complications with the shoulder.

“Initially (I thought I’d be back sooner),” Briggs said on Thursday. “And then you get to the point where you get tested and your strength and everything isn’t where it’s supposed to be, or my bone is not healing the way it’s supposed to. There was some talk of going on IR, but that didn’t happen, and I’m here now. Now, I just want to play football.”

Whenever a player contemplates going on injured reserve, that means the injury, in his mind, is serious enough to where it affects his ability to perform up to par on the football field. The fact Briggs strongly considered shutting it down for the season should not be overlooked.

Then there is the fear of re-injuring the shoulder.

Let’s not be na´ve. Briggs is a business man. His contractual spats with the Bears have been highly publicized over the years. We all see the writing on the wall: the Bears are about to overhaul the defense in the offseason. Briggs, 33, is under contract with the Bears in 2014 for a total salary of $5.5 million, but the last thing any older veteran player wants is to enter an offseason hurt or in need of surgery.

The Bears aren’t exactly sentimental when it pertains to contract negotiations or shaping the future roster -- see Brian Urlacher.

So Briggs has plenty of motivation to ensure that his shoulder is completely healed when the offseason rolls around.

However, it’s obviously in the best interest of the Bears if Briggs plays on Sunday.

In the end, Briggs probably opts to knock off the rust and play a certain amount of snaps in Week 16.

But that decision could have far-reaching consequences.

Don’t think for a second Briggs is blind to that.