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Fan-Demonium: Time To Bear Down


The Eagles have lost consecutive games and now have to play the Chicago Bears. On Sunday night, no less. The Bears have beaten us the last two seasons in heartbreaking fashion. The Eagles have lost seven straight Sunday night games. This set-up doesn't sound so promising.

I do have some good news. The Bears are struggling right now. They've lost four of the last five games. Two of the losses were major blowouts. While the Eagles have dropped two in a row, both games were tight. The team didn't necessarily play poorly overall so much as make mistakes. Those are fixable. At least I think they are.

Penalties have plagued the Eagles all year long. I'm sure Andy Reid, the coordinators and position coaches have stressed to the players the need to stop the penalties. They have cost us in a big way in the last three losses. Part of this is a result of young players being forced to log a lot of snaps. Veterans are also to blame and they have no excuses. The bottom line is that the coaches need to get their message across this week and down the stretch. The Eagles can't afford to continue committing dumb penalties week after week.

Mistakes cost us the last two years against Chicago. Let's start with 2007. Donovan McNabb made three poor passes in the red zone that cost us points. We had to settle for field goals. Todd Herremans was called for holding late in the game on a play where Brian Westbrook had run for a first down. That was a huge play. Lito Sheppard was called for defensive holding on the Bears' game-winning drive. Sean Considine gave up the winning touchdown to Muhsin Muhammad. Considine had OK coverage, but never saw the ball. The defense struggled on third downs and Chicago had five drives of more than 50 yards. The Eagles lost 19-16.

Last year was no picnic. David Akers missed a pair of field goals. DeSean Jackson muffed a punt and the Bears recovered the ball. Jackson also ran a route poorly and that led to an interception. Matt Schobel missed a critical block on a fourth-and-goal run. He also dropped a pass. Jamaal Jackson stepped on McNabb's foot on a play near the goal line. That disrupted the handoff and hurt the play. We were burned by multiple screen passes. You know what, I'll just stop there. I think you get the point.

         <td>Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He's followed the team for almost 20 years. Tommy has been trained by an NFL scout in the art of scouting and player evaluation and runs</td>

One common denominator from both games is poor red zone play. We were two-of-five last year. That was better than one-of-four in 2007. The Eagles totaled almost 700 yards in the two games, but only scored three touchdowns. In order to win this game, the Eagles need Akers to kick extra points and not field goals. The Bears have not done anything special in the last two meetings. They simply executed better in the red zone. They've scored four touchdowns in the two meetings. We had three. That is the difference why they won both games.

I'm not sure what to make of the Sunday night losing streak. Here are the games:

2009 – Dallas, 20-16
2008 – Giants, 36-31
2008 – Chicago, 24-20
2007 – New England, 31-28
2007 - Dallas 38-17
2007 – Giants, 16-3
2006 – Indianapolis, 45-21

The one common denominator is that the Eagles lost to good teams. Three of those teams went to the Super Bowl that year. Still, not to win any of those games is troubling. I'm not sure that the coaches and players need to do anything specifically different. There is no specific trend within the streak. Offense, defense and special teams have all shared in the losses. We've had three different starting quarterbacks. We've had three different starting running backs. You can't pin the streak on one unit, one side of the ball or one player.

We broke a long streak against the Bears back in 1999. Young fans may not remember this, but the Eagles had lost 17 straight road games from 1997-99. On October 17th, 1999 we traveled to the Windy City and came up with a win. I remember that date, but only a couple of plays from the game. Wide receiver Dietrich Jells caught a long touchdown pass. We ran an option play with McNabb down near the goal line, but the Bears stuffed it easily. The final score was 20-16. If we can end a streak like that, you can bet we can end the Sunday night streak.

With Brian Westbrook out (for at least three weeks), I hope we use the game plan from the Giants game a few weeks back. That involved the Ace formation (two tight ends, two receivers, one back) with Leonard Weaver as the runner. He ran inside. LeSean McCoy ran more to the outside. They played well and helped us to a big win.

I'm curious to see what McNabb plays like. He got into a rhythm in the San Diego game, especially when we were going no-huddle in the fourth quarter. That can carry over to the next game. There is no guarantee that will happen, but it can. If we get the McNabb of the fourth quarter for a full game, I think the Eagles win easily.

The run defense has to be better than last week. The Bears offensive line doesn't do a good job of run blocking. I give our defensive line the advantage in that matchup. The real key will be linebacker play. We shuffled guys around last week and it didn't work. We don't know for sure yet what alignment will be used against the Bears. I'm betting Chris Gocong is back to the strong side. Joe Mays reportedly got a lot of snaps this week at middle linebacker. That would be an interesting move. He had the job this summer, but lost it as he struggled. He has really improved as a special teams player recently. Maybe Mays is ready for the middle linebacker job this time around.

The reason we need the run defense to be better is to limit the success of Bears runner Matt Forte. He is the key to their offense. Shut him down and all the pressure goes to quarterback Jay Cutler. He's been up and down in his first year as a Bear. Cutler has a ton of talent, but he also leads the NFL with 17 interceptions. He will force things at times. That can lead to big plays or mistakes.

Keys To The Game

Make Cutler pay – Cutler will take chances. He'll throw across his body and into the middle of the field. He'll force balls into coverage. We must come up with picks when the ball is catchable.

Control Olsen – Tight end Greg Olsen is the Bears key receiving threat. He's only fourth on the team in catches, but is Cutler's go-to guy. He also leads the Bears with six touchdown catches. We don't need to shut him down necessarily, but we do need to limit big plays and really cover him in the red zone.

Block Tommie Harris – The Bears starting ends have combined for nine sacks. They can get after the quarterback. It helps that Harris gets such a good push from his defensive tackle position. He is explosively quick off the ball. Harris has given us problems in the last two meetings.

Score touchdowns –I covered this earlier. The difference in winning and losing the last two years against Chicago boiled down to kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. That also cost the Eagles last week in San Diego. We must execute better on pass plays. The blocking and running must be better. The coaches need to do whatever they can to get us into the end zone.

Tackle well – Bears receiver Johnny Knox has explosive speed. Devin Hester is almost as fast, but is one of the most elusive players in the entire league. Chicago likes to throw those guys short passes so they can run with the ball. Our cornerbacks must come up and make sure tackles. Having Sheldon Brown on the right side will really help with this.

Work the middle of the field – Linebacker Brian Urlacher is out for the year. That opens up the middle of the field on pass plays. We need to run some crossing routes. DeSean Jackson can lose Charles Tillman if they get matched up. We also need to run some vertical routes. There should be openings in the middle for Jason Avant and Brent Celek. Don't be surprised to see more of Reggie Brown.

Watch for screens – Forte burned us last year on several screen passes. We want to blitz, which is vulnerable to screens. Sean McDermott must figure out some way to account for Forte, but also to pressure Cutler. Wide receiver screens hurt our blitz in the loss to Dallas. I'm sure McDermott has a plan for that.

Sound special teams – We've had crucial errors in the two losses to the Bears on special teams. We must eliminate those errors and avoid penalties. The Eagles need to win the kicking game.

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