After Sunday, it’s time to start taking the Bears seriously as Super Bowl contenders. "We’re the real deal," running back Matt Forte said after the Bears got their offense untracked and slowed down the hottest quarterback in the NFL with a 31-26 victory over Philadelphia.
After Sunday, it’s time to start taking the Bears seriously as Super Bowl contenders.
"We’re the real deal," running back Matt Forte said after the Bears got their offense untracked and slowed down the hottest quarterback in the NFL with a 31-26 victory over Philadelphia.
Chicago (8-3) never let Michael Vick unleash his full arsenal. Then the Bears offense got in a groove, and Philadelphia (7-4) could not recover from a 31-13 deficit.
"Everybody on this team believes we are the best team in the NFL," said receiver Earl Bennett, who had his first two-touchdown day as a pro. "And we just want to come out and prove everybody wrong each week."
The Bears grabbed an early 14-3 lead and expanded that to 18 after three quarters before bumping their winning streak to four games and taking a one-game lead over Green Bay in the NFC North.
All four Chicago starting defensive linemen – Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije, Anthony Adams and Matt Toeiana – sacked Vick, and his first interception of the season late in the first half helped Chicago take control.
On the other hand, Bears QB Jay Cutler finished 14-for-21 for 247 yards with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 146.2 QB rating.
"With him playing like that," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said of Cutler, "we’re going to be hard to beat."
The Bears grabbed an 11-point first-quarter lead thanks to a 61-yard run by Matt Forte and Cutler touchdown passes of 10 yards to Bennett and 20 yards to Johnny Knox. But the Eagles cut it to one and Vick had Philadelphia poised to take the lead with a first-and-goal on the Bears-8 just before the two-minute warning.
Tommy Harris tipped a Vick pass at the line, and safety Chris Harris hauled in the interception in the end zone, returning it to the 37 and getting the Bears offense back out on the field.
"This defense loves a challenge. He hadn’t thrown an interception all season, he has a great quarterback rating and he’s just a great quarterback," Harris said. "But we came into this game feeling good. We really didn’t change up what we do, we just played our kind of defense."
Cutler orchestrated a 6-play, 63-yard TD drive in just 1:12, hitting Bennett again, this time on a six-yard crossing route in the end zone with 38 seconds left in the half to give the Bears some breathing room.
Tight end Greg Olsen then came down with a jump ball in the end zone on Chicago’s first drive of the second half, boosting the lead to 28-13 and putting Vick and the Eagles in big-time catch-up mode.
Vick, who came into the game with the highest QB rating in the league (108.7), sparked his team late with 144 passing yards in the fourth quarter, but was unable to consistently pick apart the Bears defense the way he had while racking up a 5-0 record in games that he started and finished as the Eagles quarterback this season.
"It’s always tough when you lose. I hate to lose. It makes me sick," said Vick, who wound up with 333 yards through the air and 44 yards rushing. "I need to take my hat off to the Bears defense, though. They did a great job with their scheme.
"We had so many opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, and we just have to get better, starting with me."
Chicago rushed for 131 yards, led by Forte’s 117. The Bears had zero turnovers, and may have been just 3-for-10 on third-down conversions, but got all three during a 17-play, 83-yard field-goal drive that boosted the lead late in the third.
It proved to be just enough to knock off a team that some were calling the cream of the crop in the NFC.
What did the Bears learn about themselves Sunday?
"That we are the Monsters of the Midway," Bennett said, "and that we are going to continue to fight and win these games."
Bears reporter Jay Taft can be reached at 815-987-1384 or email@example.com.
Bears report card
Passing offense: A. Jay Cutler was the clear team MVP in this one. He completed 14-for-21 passes and threw for 247 yards and four TDs without an interception. He was sacked four times, but finished with a 146.2 passer rating, and outplayed Michael Vick.
Rushing offense: B-. A 61-yard burst by Matt Forte helped get the team’s average up to 4.7 yards per carry, but they didn’t get much besides that. Chester Taylor netted minus-three yards, but the team still rushed for 131 yards and once again showed it can be a balanced attack.
Passing defense: B. The Bears sacked Vick – who did end up with 333 yards through the air – four times and picked him off once, and most importantly, did not give up any back-breaking big plays to a potent passing attack. Chicago got just enough pressure on the edges, and got solid play from its defensive backs all day.
Rushing defense: B. The Eagles have made big plays with the running game all year; not this Sunday. Chicago held Philadelphia to 105 yards rushing, 44 of which were by Vick.
Special teams: B-. Nothing gained, but nothing lost in this department. Chicago did not need a big special teams play to win this one; they did it the old fashioned way: With a powerful defense, and an efficient offense. Devin Hester and Danieal Manning each had 44-plus-yard returns to help the Bears maintain a field-position advantage.
Coaching: A-. The Bears came in with a good game plan, and stuck to it. With 28 rushes and 21 passes, Chicago used a fairly balanced attack once again, and it worked.
Overall: A. Signature win time. This was the win Bear fans have been waiting for; one that puts them in or at least near the group of elite teams in the league. This is the kind of victory that lifts a team to bigger and better things down the stretch.