CHICAGO --So much for the numbers. Chicago's offense ranked 30th in the league entering Sunday's game against the Eagles. You wouldn't have guessed that watching Chicago take two drives and turn them into 14 points in the first quarter at Soldier Field. Right away, the Bears set the tone against the Eagles, and 31 points later on the way to a 31-26 Philadelphia defense, the Eagles knew they had not played their best game defensively.
"They didn't throw the ball down the field much at all. It wasn't a bunch of 30- and 40-yard passes," said cornerback Dimitri Patterson. "It was a lot of slants and curls. Nickel and dime stuff. They were playing it safe, and we missed too many tackles."
The defense gave up too many big plays to the Bears – a 61-yard run by Matt Forte that set up a 10-yard Jay Cutler touchdown pass to Earl Bennett and then a 39-yard screen play to Devin Hester that set up another Cutler touchdown pass, this time to Johnny Knox – and the Eagles found themselves in a huge, slippery hole.
The playing surface at Soldier Field was awful, to be charitable. A high school football game played on Friday taxed the already-worn down grass surface and the Eagles had trouble holding their ground. On the big gain on Hester's screen pass, safety Quintin Mikell slipped and went to the ground, and then scrambled to regain his footing. Cornerback Joselio Hanson slipped on the touchdown pass to Knox, leaving Knox wide open for the score.
The Eagles were already in a tough spot playing without Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel and defensive end Juqua Parker. Hanson started at left cornerback, with rookie Trevard Lindley stepping in and playing the nickel cornerback role.
Cutler tossed 3 touchdown passes in the first half. He was pressured at times -- the Eagles had 4 sacks in those two quarters -- but the Bears made adjustments, shortened Cutler's drops and stunned the secondary with quick slants and passes into the voids in coverage. Cutler averaged a remarkable 13.2 yard per pass attempt in that first half, during which time the Bears piled up a 21-13 advantage.
Chicago opened the second half with a touchdown drive and again Cutler tossed a touchdown pass, his fourth of the game. It was the first time since the playoff loss in Arizona that the Eagles allowed four TD passes in a game, and the first time since 2005 since the Eagles allowed four passing scores in a regular-season game.
So much for the pre-game numbers. Chicago ran the ball well, kept its balance and took it to the Eagles for four quarters. Clearly, the Eagles missed Samuel. Cutler threw more to the left side of the Eagles' defense than quarterbacks had in the previous 10 games combined, it seemed. Chicago converted third downs at will. It was a clinic, as the Bears held the football for nearly the entire third quarter even with a two-touchdown advantage.
Chicago scored touchdowns on 4 of 5 trips to the red zone, continuing a trouble spot for the Eagles. Philadelphia ranks last in the league in red-zone defense, and that is an area that must improve if the Eagles want to contend in the NFC.
"It's frustrating," said safety Quintin Mikell. "I don't know what it is, but I know we have to correct it. We've been good in the red zone in the past. We need to get back to that level. We need to turn some of those touchdowns into field goals, get some takeaways and build some momentum and some confidence in the red zone."
-- Posted by Dave Spadaro, 9:07 p.m., November 28