Bears getting big plays, but sustained drives still a problem
NFL teams crave big plays, and the Bears are finally getting them.
Chicago ranks second in the NFL with 36 pass plays of at least 20 yards, one behind the Saints and two ahead of the Colts and Chargers.
Those other three teams are 24-3, showing the importance of big plays. The Bears are 4-5. And the Eagles, one big play behind the Colts and Chargers, are 5-4.
That shows the importance of consistent plays.
The Eagles and Bears, who meet at 7:20 tonight at Soldier Field, are more explosive than they’ve been in years, but rank 23rd and 26th in the percentage of touchdowns scored inside the 20-yard line.
Philadelphia’s inconsistency is due, in part, to inexperience. Two offensive linemen are first-year starters, as are leading rusher LeSean McCoy and tight end Brent Celek (533 yards). The Eagles’ top two receivers are rookie Jeremy Maclin (413 yards) and second-year player DeSean Jackson (621 yards).
“When you sustain long drives, everything is going well,” Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said on a teleconference. “Big plays are great, but when you go on drives and don’t convert third down or make a miscue on plays that could easily have happened, that goes on communication. That stuff can happen with younger guys.”
Those red-zone problems are a big reason the Eagles are 0-3 in games decided by one touchdown or less.
We’ve got to do a better job in the red zone,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “We’ve got to do a better job in two-minute (offense). We’ve got to do a better job in four-minute from a defensive standpoint. There’s all kinds of things we’ve got to work on that help you win close games.”
While the Eagles’ task is to score touchdowns in the red zone, Chicago also has to worry about hanging onto the ball. While McNabb has thrown only four interceptions, Chicago’s Jay Cutler leads the NFL with 17. And the Eagles are second in the NFL on defense in creating turnovers with 22.
The interceptions and red-zone problems are both tied to Chicago’s offense moving in fits and starts.
“Once you get a 9- or 10-play drive going, you get a feel for the defense,” Cutler said. “If you are going three-and-out all the time, they are going to keep throwing different looks at you and keep you off-balance.”
The Eagles excel at keeping teams off-balance with a series of exotic blitzes, but the Bears have gotten used to that in a pair of close wins over Philadelphia the last two years.
“There won’t be a lot of surprises,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We know what blitzes are coming. We just don’t know when they are coming.”
With four losses in five games, this is the time for the Bears to start coming.
“We need to make a run,” Smith said. “Philly is in a similar situation. Now is crunch time for all teams.”
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 email@example.com.
Bears keys to the game
Limit turnovers. Jay Cutler has thrown two interceptions in the Bears’ four wins and 15 in their five losses. Enough said.
Make the Eagles kick. Chicago stands a good chance if Philadelphia settles for field goals instead of touchdowns. “We’ll take a field goal any day rather than a touchdown, and a lot of teams lately have been missing field goals,” cornerback Zack Bowman said. The Bears beat Pittsburgh and Seattle when each team missed two field goals.
Another Tommie Harris sighting. Harris had his best game in two years last week. How about another to show it wasn’t a fluke?
Show a backbone. When things have gone bad this year, they’ve gone really bad for the Bears. Chicago needs to bounce back if it faces early adversity.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Bears 13