Saturday, September 27, 2008

Eagles at Bears - Game Preview


CHI 1-2
PHI 2-1

This is a big game for Chicago. They have lost 2 games in a row after upsetting the Colts in the season opener. Normally that doesn't put you in must-win type territory, but things are tough in Chicago right now. Fans and media want blood. The SB team of 2006 seems like like a distant memory. The offense is built around a rookie 3rd round RB. The defense is starting to age a bit. Special teams remains a strength.

The game is important to Philly for other reasons. A win puts us at 3-1. That is a good start and builds even more confidence within the team. It also keeps the Eagles near the top of the NFC East. You don't want to slip much this year with the way the Giants, Skins, and Boys are playing. I don't think Washington is for real, but you never know in today's NFL. I'll certainly be pulling for them to beat Dallas on Sunday.


Top Players

QB Kyle Orton - He's on this list by default...he's the QB. We don't know how good Kyle can be as an NFL QB, but he's never really impressed me. He did make some nice throws last week in the 2nd half and helped his team build a solid lead. Not a complete bum, but I'm also not sure this is the guy you really want as your starting QB.

RB Matt Forte - Very impressive rookie. Upright runner with size and strength. Has some elusiveness as well. Fast enough to be effective off tackle and create big plays. Had a 50-yd TD run vs Indy. Good receiver. The Bears will throw him screens. They also line him up out wide and throw to him out there and down the field. Attempted a 34-yd pass to him last week. Not a typical rookie RB. Already has 86 touches.

TE Greg Olsen - Sure-handed receiver. Limited blocker. Only has 6 catches for 59 yds this year. Has also lost a pair of fumbles.

WR Brandon Lloyd - One of my least favorite NFL players, but I give him credit for playing well this year. Leads the team with 13 catches. Made a couple of tough, clutch grabs last week to help the Bears get a lead. The best of a bad lot (WR corps, that is).

C Olin Kreutz - Still one of the better Centers in the league. Quick and mobile. Pulls very well. Starting to show some age, but is still a long way from being done.

DT Tommie Harris - 3-time Pro Bowl DT who is very quick off the ball. Normally a very disruptive force. Last year he had 8 sacks and 11 TFLs. This year he's got just 3 tackles, including 1 TFL. A knee injury is slowing his play. Missed some practice this week. Tommie had 2 sacks against us last year.

LB Lance Briggs - Aggressive WLB. Playmaker. 2nd on the team in tackles. Has a TFL, 3 PDs, and an INT already. Playing up on the LOS a lot this year.

MLB Brian Urlacher - 3rd on the team in tackles. Hasn't been much of a playmaker to this point. Did bat a ball last week that Briggs picked off. Still a good athlete and interesting problem for offenses to deal with.

CB Charles Tillman - Having a terrific season. Leads the team in tackles. That's normally not good, but CBs in the Cover 2 are supposed to make more tackles than in other schemes. Tillman is hitting everything that gets near him. He punished Colts receivers like it was personal. I loved seeing that. He's got a couple of FFs and an INT this year. There is one complaint to make. Got called for a very costly penalty last week that gave the Bucs a 1st down and may have cost Chicago the game. His toughness and aggression got the best of him at that moment.


Simple. They run I-formation, Ace formation, and occasionally go 3-wide. I didn't see much innovation at all. They are all about execution and not trickery. That's great when you have top shelf players, but aside from Forte and Olsen the Bears are lacking weapons. I'd be highly frustrated if I were a Bears fan and yet...they are the 15th best offense in the league. Forte deserves a lot of that credit. He's come through for them in a big way. They're 8th in the league in rushing. The offense is averaging just under 19 points a game.

The passing game was short and controlled early last week. They struggled in that period. The offense came alive when they threw more downfield (passes of 15 or more yards). Bernard Berrian was the deep threat last year. He's now Viking. Mushin Muhammad was the big possession receiver. He's gone. His replacement Marty Booker has been banged up. Rashied Davis showed a lot of potential the last couple of years, but he's had some key drops. The long pass play all year is 32 yards.

The OL is a mixed bag:

LT John St Clair - LG Josh Beekman - C Olin Kreutz - RG Robert Garza - RT John Tait

St. Clair is a mediocre LT. He played RT against us back in 2002 as a Ram and ND Kalu beat him for 4.5 sacks. That should put things in perspective. Beekman is a young guy that I've not seen a lot of. The right side has some age, but those guys have been solid over the years.


The Bears run a 4-3. They gang tackle and fly to the football. You can normally count on the Bears to come up with at least one sack and one turnover a game. Last week was interesting. They forced 4 turnovers, but didn't get a sack. And that came in a game where Tampa threw 67 passes. 67! Chicago was aggressive with blitzing. Tampa used extra blockers a lot of the time and also threw quick, underneath routes. The Bucs noticed the Bears looked tired in the 2nd half. They went to more of an up tempo attack and scored 13 points in the 4th Qtr and OT after having only scored 7 offensive points in the first 3 Qtrs. The Bears also blew a lead the week before. Apparently they are wearing down this year.

The Bears are blitzing more this year than I've seen in the past. It isn't working in terms of sacks (only 5), but they are tied for 2nd in the league with 6 takeaways. Briggs and Urlacher have been lining up over the C a lot this year.

The DL seems to have slipped a little. DEs Ogunleye, Brown, and Anderson have only 2 sacks combined (both by Alex Brown). That's unusual for this group.

SLB Hunter Hillenmeyer has come under some attack. He's struggled with covering TEs the last couple of weeks. Hunter has never been a playmaker, but he's always been the reliable guy. His struggles have led to increased playing time for backup Nick Roach. That may not mean game time for Nick, but I'm sure it got Hunter's attention.

The secondary still looks solid to me.


P Brad Maynard is off to a semi-slow start. PK Robbie Gould missed a 49 yd'er last week, but has been a good kicker for a few years.

Devin Hester is the wildcard. He is hurt, but wants to play. He's obviously a game-changing kind of player. I'm not too worried about him as a punt returner. Sav Rocca has been brilliant this year with his directional kicking. He's getting good length on his punts, but is also pinning guys along the sideline. The Eagles have only allowed 14 punt return yards all year. Kickoff coverage is another story. The guys have been up and down. A strong effort is needed no matter who the returner is to force the Bears to go a long field.

Danieal Manning has filled in at KOR with Hester out. He averages 27 yds per return. No matter who is back there, I'll be nervous when kicking off.

Nathan Vasher is the PR. He's solid, but Rocca is the key in that matchup.

The Bears blocked a punt and scored a TD off it vs CAR.

They ran a fake punt for a 38-yd gain last week.


The key for our offense is who's going to play. I think McNabb will start. He practiced on Friday. It seems like Tony Hunt will play, but I haven't read much about that. I think LJ, Shawn, and Westy will sit. I'd love to see Brian try to play, but why risk anything if the reward isn't great. I want 36 healthy for the season, so I can live without him for a game.

How will the Eagles approach the Bears D? This is going to be tough for Andy. He likes to stretch the field and attack vertically. The Bucs showed last week that you can work the middle and underneath and drive the Bears crazy. Will Reid and Donovan be patient enough to do that? Also, we tend to struggle with scoring TDs when playing small ball.

I think DeSean Jackson will be a key in this game. If the Bears blitz and play man coverage, they don't have anyone who's a good matchup with DeSean. We can burn them deep if the blocking is good. If they play zone, I think DeSean will be sent deep to stretch the zone and open the middle of the field for other guys.

We should be able to at least have moderate success with running the ball.

One concern will be how Max handles the Bears blitzes up the middle. We don't want 54 or 55 coming free on Donovan.

Tampa used TEs very effectively last week. No LJ means Celek and Schobel get a chance to shine. We'll use them as blockers quite a bit, but also get them some chances. You may remember that last year Schobel had a TD vs Chicago and just missed on a couple of other passes. We need those pass plays this year.

I'm sure the Bears will hope to confuse Donovan with mixing blitzes and coverages. I think they know that turnovers will be crucial to them stopping our offense.

Don't expect to see Jim Johnson attack like he did last week. I'd love to see Jim come with another super-aggressive gameplan, but I doubt that will happen. The Bears offense fits perfectly into what he believes in. They play small ball and move the chains. He is willing to give up that kind of stuff so long as big plays aren't mixed in.

Jim will likely give the DL chances to get to Orton. We'll mix in some blitzes, but not nearly as much as last week.

I think Quintin Mikell will be huge this week. We need him to play the run well ... to be the 8th man up in a hurry. If we can stop Forte and force Orton to throw, the game really tilts our way.

Orton did get sacked a couple of times by the blitz last week. A slot DB got him once. He also panicked on one play and threw a pass to DE Gaines Adams that was picked off and run back for a score. Kyle can be rattled. Give him some credit, though. After a slow start, he didn't quit. He kept battling on and got better in the 2nd half. QBs have to be resilient.

I'll be very interested to see how we play Matt Forte when he lines up wide. I'm sure the Bears would love to isolate him on Stewart Bradley.

We must get to Forte and shut him down. We have the #1 run D in the league. We can beat the Bears OL and control the LOS. I'll be highly disappointed if the Bears can run the ball well on us. They have to try and stick with the run as long as they can, but we need to eliminate any runs of 10 or more yards and come up with some plays in the backfield that puts Chicago into 2nd/long and 3rd/long situations.

Cole better get good pressure when facing St. Clair. I don't expect 4.5 sacks, but that is a favorable matchup for Trent.


* The Bears defense that helped its team go 26-1 when leading after three quarters during the three seasons Ron Rivera was defensive coordinator has blown fourth-quarter leads in five of the past six losses under Bob Babich.

* WR Brandon Lloyd's 100-yd game vs Tampa was only the 9th 100-yd game by a WR in Lovie Smith's 5 years.

* We've gotten at least 2 turnovers in each of the past couple of games. Let's hope that continues.

* Reggie Brown is slated to play more this week. Let's see if he can contribute with a catch over the middle. Reggie does have good RAC ability. Be nice to have him come in and help us on a scoring drive.

* The Bears-Bucs game last week was very chippy from the beginning to the end. The Bears got the short end of a few calls. I wonder if Lovie will have them tone things down or if the guys will be just as spirited this week.

No comments: