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Eagle Eye: Offense has to contend with more than Khalil Mack on Sunday

The Chicago Bears' defense has blue chip talent at all three levels, and it will present a unique challenge for the Eagles on Sunday. There are a lot of numbers that explain just how stout this group has been despite the change in coordinator and dealing with the absence of key players.

No team has allowed fewer explosive runs (10 yards or more) than the Bears' 11 on the year. The Bears currently rank fourth in the NFL at 3.56 yards per carry allowed on defense.

In the pass game, they allow just 10.01 yards per completion, which ranks third in the entire league.

Like Buffalo last week, the Bears are stingy against big plays. They have yet to allow a touchdown of over 20 yards, in the run game or pass game. They make teams drive the distance of the field, where they are a top-five red zone defense in terms of scoring efficiency (76.9 percent, good for fourth in the league).

The area that I want to focus on for this piece, however, is third down. The Bears rank fifth in the NFL on third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 32.9 percent of the time, which is good for fifth in the league. The Los Angeles Chargers converted just 2 of 10 third-down chances a week ago.

What makes them so good? Let's take a look at the film.


The Bears are, primarily, a man coverage team on third down. They'll have one single-high safety (typically Eddie Jackson), and play man-to-man across the board with a talented trio of corners.

Then you have these corners. Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, who stick to the left and right sides, respectively, are both instinctive corners with good ball skills. The duo plays extremely confident from their off coverage positions, and they've been really productive as a pair over the last two seasons (37 ball disruptions from Fuller, 21 from Amukamara since the start of 2018).

This offseason, the team added Buster Skrine, a veteran nickel corner who has been impressive so far inside while replacing Bryce Callahan (who followed Vic Fangio to Denver). Skrine fits in the Windy City with his feisty, instinctive, and scrappy play style.

When talking about this Chicago defense, however, it's tough not to discuss the front, led by star pass rusher Khalil Mack. He's one of the best players in the league, and you have to account for him. There are lots of ways to do that ...

You can't just "double-team" Mack on every play. Sometimes you can slide protection toward him, or you can use chippers with backs and tight ends. No matter what you do, however, your blockers have to do their jobs individually. If one player tries to play outside of the scheme to account for Mack, that opens things up for players like Leonard Floyd, Roy Robertson-Harris, Roquan Smith, Danny Trevathan, Nick Williams, and so on to make plays. The Eagles have to be assignment-sound on Sunday.

The Bears know that teams like to slide the protection toward Mack, and for that reason, they are a big "stunt" team. Remember, if you're predictable with how you protect, defenses will find ways to attack your weaknesses! If an opposing team knows you are going to slide one way, that means they know where your man-to-man protections are. Stunts are great against man protections.

Offenses are so involved trying to stop Mack on third down that it leaves them open to allowing pressure on the opposite side due to protection breakdowns thanks to defensive gameplanning. You can't avoid this as an offense. All you can do is execute, execute, execute. The entire Eagles offensive line has to be ready to handle all of the stunts and twists they'll see from Chuck Pagano's defense on Sunday afternoon.

One player who has stood out on film while studying the Bears' defense? Robertson-Harris. This guy is long, explosive, versatile, and disruptive as a defensive tackle. Akiem Hicks went on Injured Reserve a couple of weeks ago, but Robertson-Harris' presence has helped to soften that blow. He's a player the Eagles must account for on Sunday.

This Bears defense is definitely going to present a challenge, especially on third down. The Eagles must be ready to attack man coverage, and they must be stout in protection against Mack and the rest of that defensive front.

Fran Duffy is the producer of the Emmy-nominatedEagles Game Planshow which can be seen every gameday during the season on NBC10 in Philadelphia. He is also the host of two Eagles-related podcasts,Eagle Eye in the Sky, which examines the team from an X's and O's angle each and every week as well as theJourney to the Draft podcast, which covers college football and the NFL Draft all year round. Fran also authors the Eagle Eye in the Sky column, which runs four times a week during the football season to serve as a recap for the previous game and to preview the upcoming matchup. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging, and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices, and opponents.

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