The Eagles’ path to the NFL postseason, which was rutted and rocky just two weeks ago, has suddenly opened before them like a paved highway.
Wins over the Buffalo Bills and, on Sunday in Lincoln Financial Field, over the Chicago Bears have lifted them back above .500 for the season and, if they do no more than win the games in which they will be favored, their entire season should be determined by a Dec. 22 home game against the Dallas Cowboys.
That’s a story line any Eagles’ fan would accept, particularly since it was the hated Cowboys who punished the Eagles two weeks ago with a 27-point defeat that left the season hanging by a thread.
Sure, bring that on. Just one revenge game to play for it all.
Of course, there is some football in the way before that can happen, but the Eagles get a week off to prepare for the grind ahead. They enter the bye week after Sunday’s 22-14 win over a Bears team that couldn’t get out of its own way in the first half before reviving to make it a game in the second half.
The positive view is that the first half was a more reliable barometer of the game, and the Eagles were caught flat-footed when they assumed it was over.
In the first half, the Bears were held to nine net yards of offense and didn’t advance the ball past midfield. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky was sacked three times in the half, harassed on every pass attempt, and his longest gain through the air was six yards. It was as close to a total shutdown as the NFL ever gets.
The Eagles appeared to take control with a 12-0 lead at halftime and a quick touchdown as the second half began. Up 19-0, they had marched through the Bears with a healthy mix of running and passing the ball, a formula that also served them well the previous game against Buffalo.
Running backs Jordan Howard and rookie Miles Sanders found holes in the Chicago line behind excellent play from the offensive line. Quarterback Carson Wentz didn’t air out the ball, but he didn’t have to. He used quick passes, often to favorite target Zach Ertz, to keep drives going.
If there was any frustration, it was that the first two drives of the game ended with field goals when the Eagles were unable to convert a 3rd-and-3 on the first, and a 3rd-and-2 on the second. Those misses kept the game from becoming the blowout it should have been.
It wasn’t until more than midway through the third quarter that Chicago did anything right. Trubisky rolled out on a play-action and found receiver Taylor Gabriel loose downfield for a 53-yard gain. That led to a touchdown, and, as the fourth quarter began, the Bears drove for another to cut the margin to 19-14.
The Eagles were unable to answer until they mounted a drive in the final minutes of the game to seal the outcome with another field goal. It wasn’t a pretty ending perhaps, but effective enough in the standings.
As they hope to set themselves up for a run at the postseason, it is possible things could get worse, at least seemingly, before they get better. After the bye, the Eagles host consecutive games against New England and Seattle, games in which they will be the underdogs on merit.
If they were to lose both those games, however, and fall to 5-6, the schedule then turns back in their favor. Aside from the potential showdown against the Cowboys, they play bottom-feeders Dolphins, Giants (twice) and Redskins. Add it all up, and it could add up to a division title.
The last stumbling block before that scenario could play out was Sunday against the Bears, a team that is alternately good enough to win and bad enough to lose. In this game, they were both, and the Eagles were able to hold on.