In 1967, Aretha Franklin asked for R-E-S-P-E-C-T. This Sunday, the Bears will be singing that same song against the Eagles at Solider Field. Some people (myself included) have been somewhat skeptical of their 7-3 record. Their wins have largely come against the dreck of the NFL (Lions, Cowboys, Panthers, Vikings, Bills), and they've looked completely lost at times on offense. It seems most "pundits" and some fans are saying this game against the Eagles will tell us all we need to know about the 2010 Chicago Bears. No doubt this is a big game, but I don't necessarily think this game is as important as I (and everyone else) originally thought. Yes, it would be great if the Bears stifled Vick, scored 34 points on offense, and looked like a Super Bowl contender. But, if they struggle and lose to a very good Eagles team, they'll still be in good shape to make a push for the playoffs where anything can happen.
They both enter the game at 7-3 and in first place of their respective divisions. The Bears have done it with a defense that has given up the fewest points in the league while the Eagles have scored the second most points in the league with a rejuvenated Michael Vick at QB. Vick hasn't thrown an interception yet this year, but the Bears are second in the league on defense with 15. The flip side, though, is that the Eagles' defense leads the league with 19 interceptions. I hope Cutler has been watching his game film.
Speaking of Cutler, I think he can take advantage of the aggressiveness of the Eagles' corners. Asante Samuel is a gambler. On one of his interceptions on Sunday night against Eli Manning, he showed how quickly he reacts to the underneath routes. The Giants receiver barely started his break when Samuel exploded towards the ball. The Bears should run at least one stutter-step and go against him each series, even if they are simply decoy routes. Hopefully, that will create some doubt in his mind as the game goes on.
On defense, the Bears generally match up pretty well against Vick. They don't play much man-to-man coverage which means all eyes are usually on him. That should limit his ability to break containment and pick-up huge gains running the football. Don't get me wrong, he'll get his yards. But, Urlacher and company should be able to at least mitigate some of those gains. The Giants defense was also effective when it forced Vick to scramble to his right. This means that the Bears should leave Peppers at his normal right end position all game long. If they force Vick to his right, it limits his ability to throw on the run. The Lovie-2 defense should also be effective at preventing DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin from getting down field, which has been a huge part of the Eagles offense this year. Jackon is averaging 19.8 per catch, and Maclin leads the team with 705 yards. Of course, where does that leave LeSean McCoy and his 5-yard per carry average? Honestly, I don't know. The Bears run defense has been stout this year, but they will have their work cut out for them with all of these weapons to defend. Vick, though, is most dangerous when he has ample time to find his receivers down the field. Perry Fewell, the Giants defensive coordinator, consistently dialed up some corner blitzes from Vick's left which limited some of his big play ability. Was Rod Marinelli paying attention to that? A few well-timed, well-designed blitzes could be the difference in this game.
The Bears will need to score more than their average of 19.1 points in order to win this game. In fact, I think they will need to at least match their season high of 27 points (done against the Cowboys and Vikings). I'm not sure how they're going to do that, though. During their three-game winning streak, they've been running the ball, converting third downs, and eating up the clock. But, they haven't been lighting up on the scoreboard. This has been a good formula, but the Eagles are going to get their points. The Bears offensive line will need to give Cutler some protection on a few seven-step drops just so they have the opportunity to hit a few big plays down the field. But, the offense cannot turn the ball over more than once. If they do, I don't see how they can win.
I think the Bears will rise to the occasion and knock off the Eagles. The thick turf at Soldier will slow down the Eagles just enough, and Hester will have a huge return. The defense will pick off Vick for the first time this year, and Cutler will make a few plays of his own with his legs. Am I being overly optimistic? Probably. But, that's what happens when you're on a three-game winning streak. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. On Sunday, the Bears are going to find out what that means!
Bears 30, Eagles 27