I was expecting some team to emerge from the NFL Blob, but I never thought that it could possibly be Da Bears.
They're now 7-2 on Monday Night Football since Lovie Smith took over as their head coach in 2004. Are those just arbitrary numbers, or does Lovie know how to get his team ready for prime-time football?
I tend to think it's the latter as I'm thoroughly impressed with the way Da Bears were prepared to go into Philadelphia and beat the Eagles at The Linc.
They were disciplined in every facet of the game. Individuals did what was asked of them and they took care of their business. This was a staple win and it puts Da Bears in a great position for a playoff berth as they've beaten all three teams that they'll be up against for a Wild Card spot (Atlanta, Tampa and Philadelphia).
Da Bears opened the game by punching the Eagles square in the mouth. They did it with quick snaps at the line of scrimmage and by getting away from their familiar "window dressings" or pre-snap motions. It helped to neutralize the crowd noise and minimize their chances for any false starts.
The o-line came through in a BIG way. QB Jay Cutler had been sacked in 31 straight games but not on Monday night. This was the second time in 41 starts with Da Bears that Cutler wasn't sacked.
The Eagles defense didn't even record a QB Hit! Now that's stepping up in the clutch. We knew the o-line was improving at run blocking. They've been firing off the ball well for a few weeks now, but for Cutler to drop back 32 times and not be hit says a lot about the pass blocking improvement.
They took that Eagles "Wide 9,” chewed it up and spit it out. Sure, Cutler had to use his legs to escape pressure and elude those hits throughout the game, but overall it was a special effort from the men up front.
Cliché segue alert—speaking of special efforts—Jay Cutler's second half performance was the reason why GM Jerry Angelo traded two first round draft picks, a third round pick and Kyle "Neck Beard" Orton to obtain him. He was incredible.
One of my new favorite football plays occurred in the fourth quarter. Number 6 escaped pressure twice, fell down, got back up, alluded pressure from two more Eagles defensemen and tossed the rock to Barber for an eight-yard gain. Special.
The man was having fun and playing like he was in the school yard; except, he was being an NFL leader and drove his offense down the field in a world-class fashion multiple times.
Matt Forte's production was enormous. 133 yards on the ground with a 5.5 average per carry is—we’ll stay with the theme here—special. However, you can NOT fumble the ball twice. He knows that and I know he'll be more protective with the football.
And no, meatball Bearsss fans, he did not fumble on purpose. There was a lot of "Diz lousy Mark Forte guy's fumbling on purpose cuz he hasn’t got paid by dat Gary Angleman yet," among the twitterverse. He'll get paid sooner or later, but he won't be helping you to pay your bills, so relax der guy. Go grill another SAU-sage in da grach with the doors closed.
Earl "Safety Valve" Bennett gets the game ball offensively, though. He was targeted five times and he made five receptions for 95 yards and a touchdown. Every catch he made resulted in either a first down conversion or a touchdown. Special. He offers Cutler stability just by stepping onto the field. He's got great hands and knows how to run a route and find the soft area in zone defenses. Even the Philadelphia "Dream Team" couldn't stop this number three receiver.
Even Martz had a big night as he was able to show more flexibility in his play-calling. Forte carried the ball 24 times, and Barber was called on nine times. That often spells success for Bears Football.
I did have a couple of gripes, though—as always. Like empty sets on third and shorts when pounding the ball with Barber was working, the seven (corner) route to Kellen Davis on third and one and the Wildcat on third and long, which seemed like a sort of concession play call. I'm still waiting for the perfect game from Martz. I promise I won't hold my breath.
The Lovie-2 scheme often got lost in the shuffle. Coach Mari-Lovie devised a game plan for the explosive Philadelphia offense. They played a lot of "press" coverage along with Cover 1 to contain Michael Vick and his WMD. Cornerbacks Tillman and Jennings played with physicality and roughed up DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin all night.
So much so, that they put enough fear into them to alligator arm a few passes from Vick even when no one was around. They did a great job jamming them at the line of scrimmage and making good, hard tackles when they had the opportunity.
Tillman, in particular, played his best game as a Chicago Bear in a long time. And he didn't even have one of his patented strips for a fumble!
The pressure generated by the front four is what allowed Da Bears to be successful in their "man" coverage. They were consistently flushing Vick out of the pocket, which lowers his accuracy considerably. Vick has become a more polished pocket-passer (alliteration aside), but if he gets hurried almost constantly like he was, he won't be effective.
Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher played like true Monsters of the Midway. Urlacher led all Bears with 11 tackles and he was great in pass coverage. Briggs recorded 5 tackles of his own and tipped the pass that Major Wright picked off. They consistently put themselves in Vick's passing lanes and they cleaned up almost everything that reached the second level.
The only part of the game that wasn't special was, oddly enough, the special teams. Hester and Knox combined for only 51 kick return yards on five attempts. Da Bears got lucky when they chose not to cover either of the gunners on a punt return and the Eagles' rookie punter was unable to complete the easiest pass he'll ever attempt. I will, however, give props to Adam Podlesh for his good punts. The hang time was a major factor on the muffed Jackson punt that led to a Bears TD.
I had a feeling Da Bears might split their games against the Eagles and the Lions, who they play next week, but I didn't think the victory would come from beating the Eagles at The Linc. And now they have a shot at sweeping this two game set.
If they do that, it'll take key injuries for them to not reach the playoffs and make a run for the Super Bowl.
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