CHICAGO -- The good news is that the Eagles have absolutely no time to wallow in the misery of their 31-26 loss to Chicago on Sunday. Otherwise, there was nothing to celebrate from this game. The Eagles were missing their edge after three consecutive wins, and the revved-up Bears looked like a team that wanted the game more, that played with more purpose and that was, simply, a better football team.
The Eagles defense had its lunch handed to it as the Bears, who entered the game ranked 30th in the league in total yards gained, piled up 349 yards. Philadelphia played without cornerback Asante Samuel and defensive end Juqua Parker and missed both players. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler went right after the replacements, torching the secondary for 4 touchdowns, completing 14 of 21 passes for 247 yards and compiling a passer rating of 146.2.
Offensively, the Eagles moved the ball, had some chances, but ultimately broke down in the red zone, converting just one of four opportunities. Included was a killer interception that Michael Vick threw in the end zone that helped Chicago quell the Eagles' momentum and take control of the game. With the Eagles down 14-13 and in control of the football at the Bears 2-yard line with two minutes remaining in the first half, Vick's pass for Jeremy Maclin was tipped by defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who had great penetration up the gut of the play. The ball fluttered and was finally intercepted by safety Chris Harris, who returned it from two yards deep in the end zone to the Bears 37-yard line.
Chicago's offense then drove 63 yards and scored a touchdown, extended its lead to 21-13 and, well, the Eagles just couldn't get it back. They had regained it in victories over Indianapolis and the Giants, but not on Sunday. Not against a Chicago defense that bent, and bent some more, but didn't break when the Eagles were in the red zone.
So ... the Eagles are 7-4, tied with the Giants atop the NFC East. They got their butts kicked by a Bears team that is 8-3 and rolling. And now comes a very important couple of days as the Eagles prepare for Thursday night's NFL Network game against Houston. No way the Eagles can afford to lose that game.
"I'm embarrassed. We all are," said safety Quintin Mikell. "We're pissed off, mad, embarrassed and we have to learn from this and come back Thursday night and play a good Houston team. But right now, it's a terrible feeling. Cutler played great, even when we had pressure. He put the ball in the right spots, got the ball into the right spots and beat us. My hat is off to him."
It was a strange game. A late, furious flurry made it close for the Eagles, but the game changed on Vick's interception and the Bears resulting touchdown, and then Chicago's scoring drive to open the second half.
The defense forced zero turnovers for the first time all season. A team that entered the game leading the league in turnover ratio lost the battle to the Bears, one killer interception to none.
"I think the turning point in the game was the turnover. If we made that play, I think it is a different ball game," said Vick, who wasn't as sharp as he had been. Vick completed 29 of 44 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns, with a passer rating of 94.2.
Vick was visibly upset after throwing the interception. He tried to get the ball to Maclin, who had a step in the end zone. Harris penetrated, though, due to what head coach Andy Reid called a "protection breakdown," and got his hand on Vick's throw. It was all Chris Harris from there.
"I had a lot of options on that play," said Vick. "I could have went strong side to Brent Celek (tight end). I went back side. I could have ran it. So many things other than the turnover," said Vick. "I take sole responsibility for that. I have to be better in the red zone. I have to get better in red-zone efficiency, get more touchdowns than field goals. I think that has been the biggest thing the last couple of weeks, not capitalizing in the red zone. We definitely have to work on that.
"That interception was deflating. It changed the momentum of the game."
We've said all along that the only thing that can stop the Eagles offense is the Eagles offense. While the Bears deserve credit for the way they played on Sunday, the Eagles failed to score when the chances were there. On the Eagles' second drive, Vick had Celek wide open on a throw-ball down the field on a third-and-3 play and overthrew the big tight end. The Eagles settled for the first of four David Akers field goals.
Trailing 14-10 in the second quarter, the Eagles failed to score a touchdown on a first-and-goal situation at the Chicago 10-yard line. The turnover at the end of the first half changed everything, for sure. The offense chipped away, chipped away and moved the ball into scoring position at Chicago's 4-yard line. Then the interception. Then the Bears touchdown.
"That is a swing of 14 points right there," said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. "That is tough to overcome."
While the offense missed chances, the defense gave up too many big plays. Chicago didn't throw the ball down the field much at all, but the Eagles slipped and slid and missed bunch of tackles on the awful natural turf at Soldier Field. Cutler completed most of his passes to the left side of the Eagles' defense, where Samual usually roams. Chicago ran slants and curls and crossing routes and moved the ball up and down the field.
"You always hate to lose. It makes me sick. It makes me ill," said Vick.
Reid has the Eagles scheduled to practice right away on Monday at the NovaCare Complex. He won't hit, of course, but he wants the Eagles to shed the feeling from this loss. There is much season ahead, many wins to capture, a playoff run to make.
But as the Eagles packed up and left Chicago, they had a nasty feeling. They didn't bring their "A" game to play a good Bears team. They made a slew of mistakes. And they dropped a big game, putting them at a critical point with a short turnaround here.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
Jorrick Calvin returned kickoffs and averaged 24.2 yards on 6 returns. He ran hard, broke tackles and generally gave the Eagles good field position. Sav Rocca averaged 42.0 yards net on his punts. The punt coverage was excellent against Devin Hester. Jackson had a 35-yard punt return to set up a scoring opportunity and David Akers was perfect on his four field goals. But the kickoff coverage marred the special teams performance. The Bears averaged 27.7 yards on 6 returns.
- Where is Jackson in the offense? He had just 2 catches for 26 yards and didn't speak to the media after the game. Jackson was clearly upset at his locker. He had one drop and another pass that he and Vick couldn't connect on in the end zone. The Eagles need Jackson to be more involved in the offense.
- Great game for Trent Cole, who broke a two-game sackless streak with a pair. He now has 9 for the season. On the other side, Brandon Graham had a sack and played the run well.
- Antonio Dixon played despite an abdominal injury and recorded two tackles for loss. He was a force at times.
- LeSean McCoy contributed 120 yards from the line of scrimmage on 18 touches.
- No word on Samuel's or Parker's chances to play on Thursday night.
- The Eagles had trouble keeping their feet at Soldier Field. A high school football game was played on the field on Friday night and the field fell apart during the game. The lack of good footing cost the Eagles some big plays.
- Vick had 4 fumbles. Incredibly, the Eagles recovered all of them. He has to be better with ball security in the pocket.