The Bears had a daunting task on Sunday afternoon in front of a national television audience. They had to face the rejuvenated Michael Vick who was leading an explosive Eagles offense that was averaging over 30 points per game. And, they had to a face an aggressive, blitz happy defense that was as good as the Bears at getting turnovers. Most people pointed to this game as a watershed moment for the Bears. If their supposedly "soft" schedule was the reason for their 7-3 record, then this was their chance to show everyone that they belonged in the discussion of upper echelon teams in the NFC. With their 31-26 win, the Bears finally proved that they need to be taken seriously.
For the most part, I think the Bears defense performed pretty much as expected. They probably got more pressure on Vick than most expected, but the secondary kept Jackson and Maclin in front of them at all times, the linebackers tackled well when Vick checked down, and Peppers was everywhere. The front four also did an excellent job of staying in their gaps, which limited LeSean McCoy and kept Vick from taking over the game with his legs. They also picked Vick off for the first time this year (which yours truly predicted!). It was a great play by Tommie Harris to get upfield and tip the ball. Nice to see him step up and make one of the biggest plays of the year so far.
Despite the gaudy passing statistics, which the Bears were more than happy to give up, especially late in the game, the Bears defense was superb. The only real mistake was the late touchdown pass to Brent Celek. Urlacher should've gotten his head around to knock the pass away, but, really, the throw by Vick was ridiculous. Sometimes you just have to take your hat off to the opposition. Great throw, Mr. Vick. Too bad it only made a difference in the fantasy football world.
On the offensive side of ball, Jay Cutler had a fantastic game. He had a 146.2 rating, which was aided by the fact that he threw four touchdowns while completing only 14 passes! Amazing. His decision making was great, his accuracy was good, and he was nifty again with his feet. It was the kind of game the Bears needed from their franchise quarterback. He stepped up big time.
Matt Forte also played a great game, highlighted by a 61-yard run in the first quarter. When he gets to the second level, he is dangerous. The offensive line did a nice job of opening up holes for him and, if that continues down the stretch, the Bears will continue to score loads of points. The line did struggle at times with assignments, but I expect that to happen. But, they continue to show improvement, which is all you can ask for. The receivers also had huge games. All of them. Hester, Bennett, Knox, and Olsen all made tough catches in key situations. Mike Martz has done an amazing of job of keeping defenses off balance since the Bears bye week. He has relied on shorter passes, which has generally kept Cutler out of bad situations. I was a harsh critic of Martz, especially after the Seattle and Washington games, but he has done an excellent job of learning the strengths and weaknesses of his personnel since the bye week and tailoring an offensive game plan to maximize their abilities.
In my preview, I said the Bears were looking for respect. I'm not sure if they'll get it, but they damn well deserve it. This is a good football team that has just proven skeptics wrong (myself included). The road to the playoffs still won't be easy with the Pats, Jets, and Packers all remaining on their schedule (not to mention the Lions and Vikes on the road). But, their offense just might be finding its groove as they enter the home stretch. If they can continue to build upon their recent success, the sky is the limit because the defense and special teams are championship caliber.