The Eagles lost a heartbreaker to the Bears, 24-20. Both teams were very sloppy, but mixed in some big plays to keep things interesting. The big difference in the game was that the Bears scored three touchdowns, all in the first half, and the Eagles could never get a third touchdown.
Donovan McNabb and the offense looked great at times. Unfortunately, they struggled at other times and could only muster six points in the second half. The defense struggled in the first half, and dominated after halftime. Special teams were a roller coaster ride throughout the game.
The loss hurts and there are no two ways about that. The Eagles had a chance to get to 3-1 and keep pace with the rest of the NFC East (in terms of wins). Dropping to 2-2 isn't disastrous, but it keeps extra pressure on the team. The NFC East is the best division in the NFL and you don't want to fall far behind the leaders.
The game was right there for the taking. The Eagles were down four late in the game. They had the ball inside the 5-yard line. No Shawn Andrews. No Brian Westbrook. No L.J. Smith. So what? You have to score a touchdown in that situation. Correll Buckhalter got within inches of the goal line, but wasn't able to break the plane and get into the end zone. So close and yet so far away.
You can't come out of the game totally frustrated. There were some positives. The linebackers played great. This is what Andy Reid, Tom Heckert and Jim Johnson were hoping to see. Chris Gocong, Stewart Bradley and Omar Gaither combined for 16 tackles, a sack, four tackles-for-loss, three pass deflections and a pair of fumble recoveries. Gocong and Gaither both got pressure on Bears quarterback Kyle Orton multiple times in the game by blitzing.
The run defense finished 7th in the league last year and is playing even better this season. Chicago came into the game with the 8th best rushing attack in the league. The Eagles had the top-ranked run defense and played like it. They limited the Bears to 78 yards on 26 carries. Rookie Matt Forté had 19 runs for only 43 yards.
The Eagles also lead the league in sacks with 17. The pass rush notched four of those against the Bears. Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Dan Klecko and Gocong all got to Orton. The pass rush and blitz attack both got plenty of pressure, especially in the second half.
The defense also came up with four takeaways. Two of them came from Eagles pressure. One turnover resulted in a sloppy exchange between Orton and running back Kevin Jones. The other turnover was a result of good pass coverage from Bradley. The defense now has nine takeaways on the season. The defense only got 19 all last year. We are seeing definite improvement in this area.
The Eagles offense had trouble converting the takeaways into points. To be fair, one of the interceptions came in the end zone and prevented the Bears from scoring. Still, the other three turnovers netted the Eagles just six points. The offense has to take advantage of a short field and come up with touchdowns. If they turn just one of the takeaways into seven points, the team probably wins the game.
As frustrating as the offense was, let's keep it in perspective. Think back a season ago. The Eagles played a road game on Sunday night early in the year. They didn't have Smith or Westbrook. The team was missing a starting offensive lineman. Do you remember that game? The Giants won 16-3 and the Eagles offense looked horrible. The offense did not play well against the Bears, but did put 20 points on the board and get the team in position to score more.
DeSean Jackson's performance was exemplary of how the game went for the Eagles. He was both brilliant and not so brilliant, to put it mildly. He ran the ball twice, netting 35 yards. He looked very fast and showed excellent acceleration on both runs. He caught five passes for 71 yards. One of the catches was a beautiful touchdown over the middle. McNabb made a spectacular throw to fit the ball in a tight window among several defenders and Jackson grabbed it and got both feet in. He looked good while running back a couple of punts. His long return was 17 yards.
Now for the negatives. Jackson muffed a punt early in the second quarter. He slipped as he tried to settle under the ball and catch it. The ball hit his upper body and bounced away from him. The Bears recovered it just outside the red zone and turned the gaffe into a touchdown. That play really seemed to affect Jackson. It looked as if he lost his confidence for the next quarter and a half of the game.
Jackson appeared to run the wrong route on a third quarter pass play that resulted in an interception. That would have been bad enough, but Buckhalter got injured making the tackle on the play. With Westbrook not playing and Buckhalter hurt, the running game really suffered during the third quarter. Things improved when he returned, but not having him on a few drives definitely hurt and may have cost the team points.
• Give the Bears credit for their first half game plan. They came out throwing the ball aggressively. They had five pass plays of more than 19 yards. That is normally a game's worth for them.
• Give Jim Johnson and the Eagles defense credit for adjusting as the game went on and shutting the Bears down. The Bears only gained 60 yards in the second half. The third quarter was interesting. The Bears had three turnovers and gained two yards. That's good defense.
• Sav Rocca boomed a 65-yard punt that really flipped the field in the third quarter. Unfortunately, it only led to a missed field goal attempt.
• David Akers had an up and down game. He hit a pair of field goals, but missed two others. His misses weren't gimmes. One was a 47-yard attempt and the other came from 50 yards out. That is concerning with the way last year went for him. His kickoffs had pretty good depth for the most part. He did try one pop-up kickoff that was too shallow.
• Reggie Brown looked pretty good in his return to regular playing time. He caught six balls for 79 yards.
• Correll Buckhalter had another good game. He finished with total 18 touches for 90 yards and a touchdown.
• The Eagles were only 2-of-13 on third down plays. That hurt. The Bears blitzed quite a lot and had a big hand in the Eagles offensive problems.
• Trent Cole had another strong showing. He finished with eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and he pressured the quarterback throughout the game.