Monday Six Pack: Eagles vs Bears Week 9 by Matt Lombardo

Matt Forte accounts for 46 percent of the Chicago Bears offensive production this season. Needless to say, slowing Forte is crucial to the Eagles coming out on top in a pivotal NFC Showdown tonight. 

Tonight at Lincoln Financial Field the Eagles face a pivotal showdown in the NFC. Not only do the Eagles need the win to remain two games behind the NFC East leading Giants, but can also pull into the sixth playoff spot in the NFC by beating the Bears. Each week Taking It To The House highlights six keys for the Eagles to win the game, this week Brent Celek’s reemergence in the passing game, winning the turnover battle and both running the ball and stopping the run are highlighted on that list.

6. Pressure Jay Cutler into mistakes: The enigmatic Bears signal caller is in the midst of one of his best seasons. While his touchdown numbers are slightly down from previous years, Cutler has already thrown for 1,702 yards and nine scores through seven games. Because of Matt Forte’s season and tremendous impact on Chicago’s offense, much of the offensive load has been taken off of Cutler’s shoulders. Cutler though is the definition of a Jekyll and Hyde quarterback; tremendous when given time in the pocket, but capable of making costly mistakes when pressured. The Eagles have gotten after the quarterback with great success from their defensive line this season, getting 19 sacks through the first eight games and that trend must continue against Cutler.

5. Continue to involve Brent Celek in the passing game: In the last two weeks Celek has hauled in more passes (11), yards (136) and touchdowns (2) than he did in the team’s first six games of the season (9, 73 and 0) and the Eagles have won their last two games behind an offense less dependent on the hit or miss of the deep threat. Celek’s improved production in the passing game is also a credit to the offensive line’s continued development which has allowed Reid the option of utilizing the tight end both as a blocker and a receiver. Michael Vick has also seemed to have discovered a renewed confidence in Celek who was overlooked on several routes earlier this season, but his involvement in the offense creates space for LeSean McCoy out of the backfield and the receivers as well. He’ll be crucial tonight in underneath routes against the Bears deep playing safeties in their cover two and cover three scheme.

4. Eagles must win the turnover battle: Through the first six games of the season, the Eagles turnover ratio was an abysmal -10. It’s little wonder that they were 2-4 residing firmly entrenched in the basement of the NFC East. However, since beating the Redskins before the bye week the Eagles are both creating turnovers defensively and protecting the ball on offense. The Eagles turnover ratio is a much improved plus 3 in the last two games. Overall, the Eagles are 0-4 when losing the turnover battle, and 3-0 when winning it. With pressure on Cutler, the Eagles will have plenty of opportunities to create takeaways and on offense, Michael Vick must continue to play at the high level he did against Dallas last week and protect the football. Turnovers are drive killers and often lead to points or positive field position for opponents and it’s crucial against Chicago that the Eagles protect the football and come up with key takeaways.

3. Slow Matt Forte: This game features two game changing workhorse running backs in Forte and LeSean Mccoy. As Forte goes, the Bears offense follows. In seven games, the third year running back has rushed for 672 yards and two touchdowns while also adding 419 receiving yards and a touchdown through the air, which is good enough for 46 percent of the Bears offensive output. The Eagles defense has been sturdier against the run in recent weeks allowing just 42 yards to the banged up Redskins followed by 110 against the Cowboys, many of which coming in the fourth quarter. Bottling up Forte will be key for the Eagles, not only to keep the defense fresh and avoiding long drives but also to force Chicago to make Cutler and the passing game beat them.

2. Can Michael Vick finally solve the cover two?: The cover two defense that essentially places safeties and corners in positions to create two deep zones has been an Achilles Heel to Vick throughout his career. Against Chicago, Vick is 0-4 against the Bears, including a four fumble and one interception performance against the Monsters of The Midway last season. Last week against Dallas, the Cowboys played mostly a cover two and Vick was spectacular. Pre-snap he audibiled into two plays that produced touchdowns and during the play went through his progressions better than at any point this season. It isn’t a stretch to call last week’s game the best of Vick’s career. That must continue against a Chicago team that has had his number throughout his career. The key to beating the Bears deep cover two tonight will be continuing to hit take advantage of underneath routes and wait for the deep ball opportunities until the point that the Bears safeties creep to the line of scrimmage out of respect of the Eagles run game. Vick likely won’t be blitzed by Chicago which should help his numbers overall.

1. LeSean Mccoy must continue to be the focal point on offense: Seems odd to say, but the Philadelphia Eagles are the top ranked offense in the NFL after eight weeks. Yes, it’s true that Vick plays a factor in that, after all he has accounted for (yards), but it’s been LeSean McCoy who has emerged as a premier back in the NFL in recent weeks. McCoy leads the league averaging 107.7 rushing yards per game, leads the league in runs over 10 yards, has eight runs of over 20 yards this season, he leads the league in first down runs, and ranks second in scoring behind none kickers with 60 points this season. Needless to say, McCoy has become a focal point in the Eagles offense. In the last two weeks McCoy has set career highs in carries in back to back weeks and a personal yardage milestone against the Cowboys with 185 on the ground. McCoy’s effectiveness on Monday will reap multiple benefits for the Birds. Lengthy, run heavy drives keep the defense fresh (they were only on the field for 18 minutes against Dallas in week 8), and on offense if the Bears must respect McCoy it will open up the deep passing game. Despite Reid denying it this week, there has clearly been a philosophical shift in the way the offense is called, and that needs to continue against the Bears.

Notes

-With a loss the Eagles drop to 3.5 games behind the Giants in the NFC East, but with a win would pull into the sixth wild card spot in the NFC.

-The Eagles announced on Saturday that Brandon Graham was added to the active roster, if he plays tonight it will be his first action since last December when he tore his ACL against the Cowboys.

– The Bears are coming off of their bye week and are just 4-3 after the bye under Lovie Smith.

– The Eagles not only rank tops in rushing offense, but also first in total offense averaging 449.3 yards per game.

 

Matt Lombardo is the Philadelphia Eagles beat  reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL or by Email at MDLombardo@yahoo.com

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: