Five reasons the Eagles beat the Bears | Paul Domowitch
Another outstanding performance by Carson Wentz. A big game by Alshon Jeffery. A resilient offensive line that has withstood the loss of its best player. Just three reasons for the Eagles' latest win.
Five reasons the Eagles defeated the Bears, 31-3, Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field:
Wentz comes up big — again
Carson Wentz put on another MVP-level performance Sunday, throwing three more touchdown passes – all of them in the red zone. That gives him an NFL-high 28, just four shy of Sonny Jurgensen's 56-year-old franchise record.
Wentz has thrown 22 TD passes in the last seven games and has just three interceptions in his last 282 attempts.
He also moved the chains with his legs, picking up four rushing first downs on five carries. That makes 21 rushing first downs in 11 games.
Wentz ran for 16 yards on a third-and-9 early in the second quarter after spinning away from Bears cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc, who was blitzing off the edge on Wentz's blind side. Wentz had his back to LeBlanc because he was looking to throw a screen to the left to running back Corey Clement. But his spidey senses kicked in and he spun around LeBlanc and picked up the first down.
The last of his three TD passes – an 8-yarder to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery – was his most impressive. Jeffery lined up in the slot and got behind Bears linebacker Christian Jones in the end zone. Wentz got the pass high enough to clear Jones, but low enough for Jeffery to make a play.
Wentz is a second-year NFL starter playing like a guy in his 10th year. He has excelled at situational football. He has a 65.3 completion percentage in the red zone and is the only quarterback in the league who hasn't had a turnover or sack inside the 20. He's first in third-down passing with a 123.4 rating.
Nowhere to run
This game supposedly was going to be a good test for the Eagles' run defense. Even though they lugged a 3-7 record into the Linc, the Bears were ranked fifth in rushing and sixth in rush average and were averaging 29 carries per game. Jordan Howard was third in the league in rushing, with 841 yards, and was coming off his fourth 100-yard game.
But the Eagles' quick-starting offense derailed yet another offensive game plan.
The Bears ran the ball a season-low 14 times in Sunday's 31-3 loss. Part of that was the score, but part of it was that they just couldn't run the ball against the Eagles defense.
They gained just 6 yards on those 14 carries. Take out quarterback Mitch Trubisky's 12 rushing yards, and that number plummets to minus-6 yards. They had one rushing first down, and that came on their last carry of the game in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles held Howard to 6 yards on seven carries. After gaining 4 yards on his first carry, his next six went for 1, -1, 2, 0, 0 and 0 yards.
The Bears converted just 3 of 13 third-down opportunities. They didn't have a first down the entire first half.
Ten of their 13 third downs were 8 yards or more. Trubisky was 7 for 10 for 86 yards on third down, but those seven completions produced just three first downs.
The Eagles haven't allowed a team to convert more than three third downs in a game since Washington converted four of 12 in Week 7. The only two teams to convert more than four third downs against the Eagles this season were the Chargers and Chiefs, who converted five each.
The Eagles are third in the league in third-down defense with a 28.6 opponent conversion rate, the lowest by the team since the league started keeping track of the statistic in 1981.
They've given up just 12 first downs in 55 third-down opportunities in the last four games (21.8 percent).
Emergence of Alshon
Alshon Jeffery had another very productive game, as his chemistry with Carson Wentz continues to get better and better.
He had five catches for 52 yards and his seventh touchdown catch of the season. Five of those seven TDs have come in the last four games.
He had a 14-yard catch on a third-and-8 on the Eagles' second possession that was immediately followed by the Eagles' first score when Wentz hit Zach Ertz with a 17-yard touchdown pass in the end zone.
His 9-yard reception on a second-and-14 late in the first quarter put the Eagles in a manageable third-down situation on their second scoring drive.
And his 8-yard touchdown catch at the end of the first half pretty much made it game, set and match. Jeffery lined up in the slot on his TD catch, something he did quite a bit the previous week against Dallas.
Jeffery's 43 receptions this season are tied for the 42nd most in the league, and his 619 receiving yards are 28th. But he's tied for 11th in third-down receptions (17) and tied for fifth in TD catches (7). Five of those TD catches have come in the red zone; that's just one shy of his career high.
It’s what’s up front that counts
Despite losing nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters five weeks ago, the Eagles' offensive line has continued to play well.
His replacement, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, had a couple of early hiccups Sunday, but other than that, the unit turned in another excellent performance.
Carson Wentz was sacked just once and generally had plenty of time to throw. He has been sacked just twice in the last three games and five times in the four games since Peters went down.
The run-blocking continues to be outstanding. The Eagles rushed for 176 yards against the Bears. They had three 20-plus-yard runs, including 35- and 22-yarders by LeGarrette Blount and a 30-yarder by Jay Ajayi.
The Eagles are averaging 5.7 yards per carry in their last three games.