The BIGPLAY RADIO NFL PODCAST: HOME TEAM EDITION will feature game day blogs and podcasts. In this series, the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES are featured throughout their 2007 season from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA.
CHICAGO BEARS (2-4) AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (2-3), 4:15 PM EST, Lincoln Financial Field
(Philadelphia, Pa) — Welcome to the inaugural entry of the Philadelphia Eagles Home Edition blog. This area will provide the “inside” information needed from BIGPLAY Football NFL Writer and Correspondent Lloyd Vance from the Lincoln Financial Field pressbox. Lloyd was joined at the game by 67, 806 rabid Eagles fans.
Pregame Notes: I am calling this game “The Backs Against the Wall” game as both the Eagles and Bears have struggled after both being division winners that went far in the playoffs in 2006. But each season brings new challenges as both teams have had a rash of injuries (Bears: DB Mike Brown, DT Dusty Dvoracek, and others — Eagles: DB Lito Sheppard, DB Brian Dawkins, and TE LJ Smith) and improbable losses. Entering the Week 7, the teams are coming into the game from opposite ends as the Eagles won over the Jets 16-9 showing that they are still perfect (9-0) after a bye week, while the Bears despite a scintillating effort from KR/WR Devin Hester (Punt Return and Receiving Touchdown) lost at home to the Vikings 34-31 on a last second field goal as they couldn’t stop Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. The Bears lead the all-time series 24-8-1, but the Eagles have won 5 of the last six meetings and Eagles QB Donovan McNabb is 4-0 versus his home town team including a 19-9 victory in October of 2004 in Chicago. Statistically the two teams seem to be evenly matched as both try to lean on an attacking defense (Bears: 361.3 ypg – was a lot better before Adrian Peterson, Eagles – 292.6 ypg – second in the conference) and a pass happy offense (Griese: 75-122, 881 yards, 7 TDs, and 6 INTs, McNabb: 101-171, 1,221 yards, 6 TDs, and 2 INTs). There are always players to watch in each game and this one is no different. The Bears marquee players are MLB Brian Urlacher (42 TKLS, 3 Sacks) on defense and on offense and special teams returner extraordinaire Devin Hester (Leads NFL with 387 PR yards & 19.4 avg). The Eagles will counter with RB Brian Westbrook on offense (2nd in NFC with 670 scrimmage yards (411 rush, 259 rec.) and on defense they welcome back Pro Bowl corner back Lito Sheppard, plus watch for high energy sack man Trent Cole (23 TKLS, 6 Sacks).
First Quarter: Eagles 3 – Bears 0, In a pretty much uneventful first quarter, the Eagles dominated in yards (114 to 22) and time of possession (12:05 to 2:55), but they only had 3 point on a David Akers 24 yard field goal. The drive that produced the field goal was 9:13 minutes featured a great diving 23 yard catch by Reggie Brown on a 3rd and three. Brown however had a bad drop at the goalline when it appeared that he heard footsteps. The Eagles seemed to own third downs going 3 of 5 for the quarter and they appeared to have a game plan to run the ball at the Bears attacking defense. Eagles RB Brian Westbrook had 9 carries for 36 yards. Donovan McNabb was a quiet 6 of 9 for 64 yards and he seemed to want to quiet the Reggie Brown naysayer throwing three passes to him. As for the long awaited question “Did they kick to Devin Hester??”, the answer is no as Sav Rocca kicked the first ball 21 yards out of bounds and on the Eagles kickoff Akers kicked it high and short to Adrian Peterson. The biggest special teams play was a bad unnecessary roughness penalty by Eagles KR Reno Mahe, who called for a fair catch and then illegally hit a player.
Second Quarter: Eagles 9 – Bears 3, The Eagles continued to dominate everywhere except on the scoreboard as they kicked two more field goals to the Bears one. The team seemed to settle for a 9 to 3 lead at the half, but you could sense that they needed more points. For the half, Devin Hester had 0 return yards as the Eagles chose to kick out of bounds sometimes giving the ball at or near mid field. At this point the Eagles led in first downs (13 to 6), 3rd down efficiency (56% to 43%), offensive yards (224 to 142), and rushing yards (94 to 41), but they were 0-3 in the redzone at this point. The biggest play of the quarter was a Griese to TE Greg Olsen completion where Olsen appeared to fumble, with the Eagles Chris Gcong recovering, but the play was overturned by replay as Olsen’s knee was down.
Third Quarter: Eagles 9 – Bears 6, This was the most uneventful quarter of the game as the Eagles did not score and the Bears only added a field goal to make the score 9 to 6 in favor of the Eagles. There was the aforementioned field goal, a punt by the Eagles, and the Bears having the ball to end the quarter. The Bears were helped by a holding penalty by William James and a 12 man on the field penalty.
Fourth Quarter: This was the quarter that showed why NFL fans love the league that keeps you on the edge of your seat until the end. The Bears started the quarter with the ball at the Eagles 24 yard line. From there the Bears stalled settling for a 41 yard Robbie Gould field goal to tie the score at 9-9. The drive totaled 10 plays and took 5 minutes off the clock, but it left a foreshadowing feeling that the Bears started to believe they could stick around and win this one. On the Eagles next possession McNabb was sacked twice by his off-season buddy Tommie Harris and they punt again out of bounds this time a 27 yarder by Sav Rocca that went out at the 50 yard line. From there the Bears stalled and were helped by the strangest play of maybe the year occurred when Bears Center Olin Kreutz snapped the ball under Brian Griese for an apparent fumble that Sean Considine gobbled up and ran inside the Bears redzone, unfortunately after the play referee Ed Hockuley stepped in. Hockuley explained that by rule a snap that goes under the quarterback is a “false start” on the offense. Everyone was left scratching their heads. The Bears proceeded to stall after the play, but they got enough yardage for Robbie Gould to boot a 45 yarder off the upright to take the lead at 12-9. The score seemed to revitalize the dormant Eagles as they went on a 8 play, 74 yard, 4:00 minute plus drive that culminated with a McNabb to Schoebel touchdown pass on a post pattern that made the score 16-12. In the drive McNabb looked like his old self moving around the pocket and hitting Kevin Curtis including a big 23 yard play. David Akers employed another short high kick that was return by Rasheed Davies to the Bears 40 yard line, but a long drive of 4:24 minutes produced a Brad Maynard 42 yard punt. The Eagles then went into conservation mode with 4:02 left on the clock. They looked good at first running Brian Westbrook, but they had a very head scratching series of plays afterward where McNabb had an incompletion to Brown and a bad holding penalty by Todd Herramins on a Westbrook run. They Eagles did seem to make a dent by forcing the Bears to burn their two last timeouts. Finally Rocca got his punt where he wanted it, angling the ball out of bounds at the Bears 3 yard line with 1:52 on the clock. After this it was “Brian Griese” time as the veteran quarterback led the Bears on an 11 play, 97 yard, 1:43 yard drive with no timeouts ending with a Mushin Muhammad 15 yard touchdown with 9 seconds left on the clock. On the drive the Eagles just could not get off the field as they concentrated on stopping Devin Hester by having their best corner Lito Sheppard shadow him leaving the middle of the field wide open. The biggest play was a 25 yard pass to speedy wideout Bernard Berrian to the Eagles 36 yard line. After the score you could have heard a pin drop as the 67,000 plus throng left the game stunned and with their mouths wide open as they were utterly speechless.
Final Analysis: Bears 19 – Eagles 16 — After the game, I have never been around a more despondent lockerroom as the entire team was either dressing quickly, showering, or not talking much (I was able to coax young Offensive Tackle Winston Justice into talking for the Eagles Home Team Edition Podcast). Head Coach Andy Reid had several one word “Yeah” answers to questions and even threw in a Drew Rosenhaus-esque “Next question”. No matter what anyone was saying the game was a huge disappointment for the Eagles and they now seem to be on their way to re-evaluating their season as they stand at 2-4 looking up at the entire division, who all just happened to win today. The final stats for the Eagles were 123 yards rushing, 226 yards passing, 0 turnovers, 1 touchdown, and several long faces. The Bears gleefully took the win moving them to 3-4 for the season as they picked up some ground on the Packers who were on a bye. The Eagles next travel to Minnesota to face the Vikings and the Bears host the Lions in a “must win” divisional game.