Eagles-Bears Postgame: Eagles D Tames Bears
The national story is going to be all about how Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz led his team to another victory on Monday Night Football in Chicago. I mean, ESPN's Jon Gruden was getting embarrassing with his man-crush on Wentz during the telecast. Yes, it's true that Wentz and the Eagles beat the Bears 29-14 to go 2-0 on the season, but the offense wasn't the reason for the win.
The Eagles defense should get the majority of the credit for this win. After the Bears scored on their third possession of the game, the Eagles defense absolutely dominated the Bears offense.
The Bears actually drove down the field on their second possession, with QB Jay Cutler carving up the Eagles secondary. Luckily, Bears kicker Connor Barth hit the upright, to keep the shutout intact. You could actually hear the Bears fans chanting "Robbie, Robbie" for kicker Robbie Gould, who was replaced by Barth before the season. Actually that miss was something of a rarity for the Eagles, as it was the first time an Eagles opponent had missed a FG since November 18, 2014. Opponents converted all of their FG attempts against Eagles last season.
Enough of the inane trivia, though. Back to the game.
The Eagles were clinging to a 3-0 lead thanks to Wentz looking poised on his first drive again this week. The Eagles came out throwing and Wentz looked like a seasoned pro, instead of a rookie making his first NFL road start. He was hitting his receivers and calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, as the Eagles came out in a no huddle offense. They converted another 4th down, this time a 4th & 2 at the Chicago 28 yard line, but eventually had to settle for a Caleb Sturgis 25-yard FG.
Back to the defense.
Rookie 7th round pick Jalen Mills was playing in place of injured CB Leodis McKelvin and Cutler went after him on the next drive. Mills somehow lost Alshon Jeffrey (5 catches for 96 yards) and got burned for a 49-yard gain. If not for a heavy pass rush, Cutler would have had time to step into his throw for an easy TD. As it was, the Bears got the TD anyway on a Jeremy Langford 1-yard TD run for a 7-3 Bears lead. It would be the last time the Bears would have the lead in the game, or even any offensive momentum at all.
From that moment on, the Eagles defense absolutely destroyed the Bears offense.
Given good field position, the Eagles managed to take the lead before halftime with two FGs. It actually should have been a TD and a FG, but Jordan Matthews dropped a perfect pass from Wentz that should have been a 35-yard TD pass. As it was, the Eagles went into halftime with a 9-7 lead, thanks to a 53-yard FG by Sturgis.
At halftime, Cutler was 10-for-13 for 145 yards, but the defense had held the Bears to 10 yards rushing on 7 carries. Carson Wentz was playing OK, completing 15 of 24 passes for 141 yards, but he wasn't scoring touchdowns. That changed in the second half.
The Eagles continued to harass Cutler in the second half and simply didn't give him any time in the pocket to find open receivers. The Bears tried to run the football to slow down the Eagles pass rush, but that only worked briefly on one second half possession. The Eagles actually held the Bears to 64 yards rushing in the contest.
Continuing the trend of having good field possession, the Eagles finally started to convert in the red zone. Ryan Mathews didn't have a great game rushing (9 carries for 32 yards), but he did score two TDs. His first was a thing of beauty, as he was stuffed in the middle of the line, but bounced it outside for a TD to put the Eagles up 16-7. Sturgis missed the extra point and looked to injure himself on the play. I wonder if Cody Parkey is still available.
The defense really started to take over the game at this point by picking off an errant Cutler pass and returning it to the Chicago 2 yard line. From there, TE Trey Burton scored his first NFL TD. Burton entered the game with 3 career receptions and he had 5 catches for 49 yards and that TD in this game alone. Jordan Matthews led the Eagles with 6 catches for 71 yards, but this game was not about the Eagles offense.
Cutler left the game after the interception, with an undisclosed injury, but the rout was on. The Eagles proceeded to force a fumble from Langford and they turned that into another Mathews 1-yard TD run, to increase their lead to 29-7.
What did you like best about the Eagles win over the Bears
Brian Hoyer came in and complete 9 of 12 passes for 78 yards against a prevent defense, but the Bears only managed to score on a surprising 65-yard punt return TD by Eddie Royal. It was a bad play, but only served to make the final score closer.
Wentz finished 21-for 34 for 190 yards and 1 TD. For the second week in a row he did not throw an interception. As a matter of fact, the Eagles have not turned the ball over at all through two games this season. All-in-all, the rookie looked impressive once again.
Of course, we need to mention that the Bears are nowhere close to a good football team. They have now lost 11 of their last 12 home games at Soldier Field and they had several injuries throughout the game. That doesn't diminish the fact that the Eagles beat up on two inferior opponents, but going into a season with low expectations, it's nice that the other team was the inferior one.
In a nice change from recent seasons, the Eagles dominated the time of possession battle, 36:05 to 23:55, in spite of being out-gained by the Bears 284 yards to 280 yards. And again, some of that yardage was in garbage time, against a prevent defense.
The Eagles now lead the entire NFL in point differential, at +34. Much of that is due to a punishing defense that is sacking the quarterback and forcing turnovers. And yes, some of that is certainly due to the rookie QB, who doesn't look like a rookie in leading his team to a 2-0 record.
One more thing that needs to be mentioned is that the Eagles coaches did a nice job of making in-game adjustments. After 14 years of Andy Reid never making a single in-game adjustment and 3 years of Chip Kelly refusing to acknowledge that he wasn't the most brilliant football mind in history, it is nice to see coaches willing to adjust their game plans if things aren't working. Jim Schwartz sent some uncharacteristic blitzes at Cutler to keep the Bears off balance. They only sacked him 3 times, but they harassed him all game. Meanwhile, Doug Pederson and his offensive staff made some minor adjustments to the blocking schemes up front, after the offensive line was getting man-handled early in the game. They still didn't do a good job of opening many holes for the running game, but at least they did a better job of protecting the franchise QB.
Add it all together and you get an Eagles team that is a surprising 2-0 on the season.
The future looks bright for the young QB, after he passed this primetime test. And the present looks pretty good as well, with a defense that looks capable of carrying the offense as it deals with the eventual growing pains associated with a rookie QB.
Maybe we'll even see those growing pains from Wentz one of these days, but not tonight. Tonight was about him doing just enough to get a win on the road, under the bright lights of Monday Night Football, in a game where the defense tamed the Bears offense.