Eagles-Bears: What did we learn?
Philadelphia is swooning after the Eagles destroyed the Bears, 54-11, on Sunday night and Chip Kelly played to the fans in explaining why he decided not to rest his starters following the Cowboys' win over the Redskins – "We're from Philadelphia and we fight," he said. It's a little corny, yes, but Kelly can say anything after that offensive outburst and at least until the Eagles' next loss, which could very well be next Sunday in Dallas.
But first, the Bears game and some observations:
-- Nick Foles. He was good. The Eagles quarterback completed 21 of 25 passes (a franchise-best 84 percent) for 230 yards and two touchdowns and, really, only misfired once. Foles threw two balls out of the back of the end zone to avoid sacks and once grounded the ball at a receiver's feet as he escaped pressure. The only incomplete pass came in the third quarter when he overshot Brent Celek on a screen. Other than that, Foles was essentially perfect. I detailed his night in my column, but it was the kind of performance he certainly wanted heading into next Sunday's showdown in Dallas.
-- I was in favor of Kelly's decision to play his starters no matter what. For one, the Eagles spent all week preparing to play the Bears with the first team. Ditching the plan just because the Cowboys won and rendered Sunday night's game virtually meaningless would have sent the wrong message. Two, as Kelly said, there was something to play for. What if next week's game ended in a tie and the Eagles didn't have the Bears win to eek past the Cowboys? What about playing for a better seed? With the victory, the Eagles will be the No. 3 seed in the playoffs in they win the division and will hold off having to travel into Seattle one week if they were to advance past the first round. We're getting ahead of ourselves here, but the game did have some meaning. The Eagles also needed to wipe away a below-average performance in Minnesota and build some momentum heading into Dallas. And, boy, did they.
-- A few numbers: The Eagles had 514 total yards to the Bears' 257. They had 28 first downs to the Bears 18. They converted 5 of 9 third downs. They averaged 8.2 yards a play. They rushed for 289 yards, behind only the 299 yards they put up against the Lions. They finished with one turnover or less for the seventh straight game. They were 5 of 5 in the red zone after going 2 of 5 the week before. They won the time of possession … Ah, who cares about that stat.
-- LeSean McCoy had another big day, rushing for 133 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He leads the NFL with 1,476 yards rushing and is likely to finish the season atop the league. McCoy needs only 37 yards to pass Wilbert Montgomery's franchise record of 1,512 rushing yards in a season. He is certain to get it in Dallas, although he gained on 55 yards on 18 carries in the first meeting. McCoy also caught six passes for 29 yards and has 51 catches for 536 yards and 2,012 yards from scrimmage on the season. Everything everyone said about McCoy potentially being lethal in Kelly's offense has turned out to be exactly true.
-- The Eagles offensive line deserves its share of credit for McCoy's day – and not to mention Bryce Brown, et al. The unit didn't necessarily have a bad day last week. Kelly hardly ran the ball. But they opened up hole after hole for the running backs. I'll have to re-watch the game to get a good feel for who stood out, but center Jason Kelce seemed to deserve special notice. NBC at one point spotlighted him and how good he was moving in space and lead blocking for McCoy. I don't know if Kelce will be voted into the Pro Bowl. He was only a sixth-round pick and as unfair as that is, it often works against some players. But he should be in the conversation.
-- It took 15 games, but Brown broke loose. I wrote a story last week about how disappointing this season was for Brown, but it was two games from over and Brown, at the least, saved the best for the near last. He ran for 115 yards on nine carries. Brown put an exclamation on the game with a 65-yard touchdown run. Chris Polk was involved early in the game and rushed two times for 12 yards. It was no secret that the Bears had the league's worst rush defense, but the film must have showed the same thing as the numbers because the Eagles came in with a game plan to run all over them. And they did.
-- The Eagles' best defense was their offense, but Bill Davis' unit played sound football and started a new streak of holding opponents at 21 points or less. The Bears offense was listless and had only three plays from scrimmage before the Eagles were up, 14-0. But the defensive front seven set the tone and Trent Cole once again was the impetus. The outside linebacker sacked Jay Cutler on third down on the first drive and added two more later. Cole has eight sacks and all of them are in the second half of the season. I wrote a story last week about how the 31-year old could be back next season and he keeps backing up the argument.
-- Cedric Thornton was stout against the run. He was credited with only two tackles, but one was for a safety, another was near the line and he seemed to be disruptive all day on run downs. Matt Forte was held to 29 yards on nine carries (3.2 average). Linebacker Mychal Kendricks had a few tackles against the run and recorded two sacks. He wasn't as solid in coverage. Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans had trouble covering tight end Martellus Bennett, but the damage was minimal.
-- Earl Wolff returned and initially split time with Patrick Chung at safety opposite Nate Allen. Chung started the first two series and then Wolff got in. He broke up a third down pass, but came up lame and didn't return. He said he re-injured the same knee that kept him out of the previous four games. He wasn't certain about when he would return. Chung, who has been slumping (Davis' words) had a decent game as far as I could tell. The Eagles are going to need a similar performance against Tony Romo next week.
-- The same goes for cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. Both had good coverage for most of the night on the dynamite receiver duo of Alshon Jeffery (six catches for 76 yards) and Brandon Marshall (four catches for 36 yards). Williams broke up two passes. Fletcher recorded a team-high seven tackles. They also partnered up on special teams to force a big early fumble on Devin Hester's second kick return. Fletcher forced the fumble and Williams recovered it. They'll have Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and company to contend with next week.
-- Brandon Boykin had a great game. The 54-yard interception return for a touchdown was a nice capper. In the middle of last week it seemed like he might not even play against the Bears. Boykin suffered a concussion against the Lions and missed two days of practice. But he returned on Thursday. He broke up two passes in the game and helped down a Donnie Jones punt inside the five. Boykin leads the Eagles with five interceptions even though he plays about only half of the snaps on defense. Before the season, Boykin said he wrote down a list of goals and one was to finish the season with five interceptions.
-- A few quickies … Celek had a fumble, but caught three passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. … Riley Cooper was next with three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. … Jones set a franchise mark with 32 punts downed inside the 20. He had two on Sunday. … Alex Henery booted a 49-yard field goal and was much more effective with his pooch kicks.