For a second stright week, the Eagles defense must contend with an accomplished passer and a struggling ground game.
Darren Howard acknowledged the importance of getting pressure on Jay Cutler, while not sleeping on second-year running back Matt Forté.
"We know that any team can run the ball against any team any given Sunday," said Howard. "We need to get our assignments down."
Last week, San Diego's anemic running attack came to life against Philadelphia with LaDainian Tomlinson rushing for two scores and 96 yards on 24 attempts.
Chicago, meanwhile, has a 30th-ranked ground game that is averaging just 85.2 rushing yards a game behind an offensive line that has struggled this season. Forté, who had a sensational rookie year, is averaging 3.4 yards a carry.
However, Forté has excelled of late as a receiver out of the backfield. In fact, last week the Bears countered the 49ers' aggressive pass rush with Forté picking up 37, 31 and 12 yards on three screen passes. All told, Forté caught eight passes for a career-high 120 yards, the most receiving yards by a Bears running back since 1961. Forté is currently 11th in the NFL in scrimmage yards this season with 861. He also has six receptions of 20-plus yards, most among all NFL running backs.
"They were traditionally a running team ... Then they get a heck of a passing quarterback," Howard said. "You have to try to find that mixture between the two, and I think they're just going through that process now."
Cutler is the triggerman on Chicago's 10th-ranked passing offense which is averaging 249.1 yards a game. The Eagles come into the game allowing an average of 205.6 passing yards per game and 101.9 yards on the ground.
For the season, Cutler has completed 62.4% of his passes and has thrown for 14 touchdowns for a 75.9 passer rating, a career-low and a full 10 points below last year with the Broncos.
Cutler has a big arm and he's not afraid to take risks. However, his tendency to force throws into tight spaces has led to a league-high 17 interceptions, including a career-high five last Thursday against the 49ers. In fact, Cutler threw a pair of red-zone interceptions in that game that gave him five for the season in that category.
"He's got a rocket for an arm and he tries to fit every throw in there," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "That's where some of the turnovers have come on offense for them."
Cornerback Sheldon Brown compared Cutler to a Brett Favre gunslinger type. Howard agreed.
"We saw a play when we were watching film and he threw a 40-yard strike in between two guys, and they saw the ball coming and still couldn't get there," Howard said. "He has a heck of an arm. He's trying to make big plays. He's a very confident quarterback."
Thanks to Cutler, the Bears boast 36 20-plus yard pass plays in 2009, second-most in the NFL. Cutler is also capable of making things happen with his legs. In fact, Cutler ranks sixth in the NFL among quarterbacks this season with 111 rushing yards (24 carries with one touchdown and a long of 30 yards). He has taken those 24 carries for 11 first downs, third-most among NFL quarterbacks this season.
-- Posted by Bob Kent, 11:03 a.m., November 22