ACL’s Week 9 Matchup Preview: Bears@Eagles
The next two games for the Bears will determine the course of this team’s season. I believe it is that simple. The Bears travel to the land of Santa booing, snowballs, and batteries and face a seemingly resurgent Eagles team. It will be a tough test for the Bears, of that there’s no doubt. However, I feel confident that they can come away with the win if they do the following things and do them well:
- Make Michael Vick uncomfortable.
How do you do that? Well, it’s pretty simple, really. Make him pay for holding onto the ball. Punish him. Every time he hangs in there a split second too long to throw a pass, hit him. Hit him hard. He is a gamer, but he will start to get happy feet and will focus on the on-coming rush instead of his receivers.
- When Vick breaks contain, force him to scramble to his right.
He’s left-handed. He prefers to scramble to his left as it’s easier for him to throw on the run moving that direction. Forcing him right will cause him to throw across his body and he won’t be as accurate or be able to put as much on the throw.
- Shut down “Shady” McCoy early in the game.
If the Eagles get away from the run, and by extension their most talented player, then the Bears can win this game easily. McCoy is a fantastic running back, he’s elusive, powerful, quick, and can change direction in the blink of an eye. I believe that the Eagles coaching staff will get away from him early in the game if the Bears can shut him down.
- Force Vick to throw short routes
In about 100% of the games I’ve watched, Andy Reid has Vick attempt a long pass to DeSean Jackson during the opening series. Usually it’s the first or the second play. The Bears cornerbacks and safeties are going to have to play a great game to shut down the deep passing game. The Bears defensive line is going to have to pressure him constantly, they simply cannot let up. The Eagles are setup to be a quick strike team, capable of putting up a lot of points in a hurry. If you take away their big play capability, Vick isn’t as comfortable doing the dink and dunk method of moving the team down the field. Of course, the forced dink and dunk is what the Bears excel at since Lovie started coaching the team. Frustrate Vick by taking away his quick strikes and he will without a doubt turn the ball over.
- Run the ball. Pretend like the Bears are Jenny and you’re Forest Gump, Martz. RUN THE BALL.
In order to keep the defense fresh, and thereby keeping Vick off the field, the Bears will need to sustain long drives. The Eagles secondary has the potential to be one of the all-time great secondaries, but their line backer corps needs some help. Softening up the defense by giving them a steady diet of Forte and Barber is absolutely key in this game. Face it, “Mad Mike”, we can’t pass on this team, not in the traditional sense.
- Throw quick slants, crossing routes, set pick plays, etc.
Since the Eagles defense is so good against the pass (Top 10 overall, but only giving up 260 to the Redskins and a frighteningly low 203 yards to Tony Romo’s Cowboys, who we all know has a TON more talent at WR than the Bears do) it is absolutely critical that the Bears have an effective passing game. They aren’t gonna do this by burning the Eagles CBs. They’re gonna do it by utilizing our receiving corps’ speed. Slants, quick outs, back shoulder throws, etc., are the way to go. You can’t beat these guys by running a deep out, they’ll sit on that all day.
- The Bears receivers have to get off the line of scrimmage.
Hester and Knox aren’t exactly known for their physicality, but they’re going to have to fight to get off the line. With the way Martz’ offense runs on timing, they absolutely have to be where they’re supposed to when they’re supposed to. This will be a huge test for these guys. Earl Bennett is slotted to be back this week, and what a task he’ll face.
- Special teams magic from the greatest return man to ever lace ’em up, Devin “You are ridiculous” Hester.
This team does the best when all three phases are in sync. Some weeks the offense will be looking great but the defense won’t, and vice versa. However, Devin’s play-making ability on special teams can fire up the team, demoralize the opponent, and make a close game not so close anymore. And he can do it every single time he touches the ball.
- It should go without saying, but the final thing the Bears need to do to win this game against the Eagles? Protect Jay Cutler. DURRRR.
Jay’s ability to stand in, take a hit and get right back up is not in question. But frankly, if I never see his “toughness” again, I’ll be a happy man. I’m tired of needing to see and hear how tough he is, because it means he’s the equivalent of a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. Gabe Carimi has indicated that he should be ready to return to action this game, but all in all, the line hasn’t done too bad the last few weeks. If he does come back, then the Bears will have the luxury of having a pretty solid lineman be a relief guy instead of a starter. Who that is remains up in the air, for now.
The Bears gave the league the blue-print on beating the Eagles last year when they played. I expect that the country will be “shocked” once again as Urlacher, Peppers, Briggs and the rest of the gang on defense handle Michael Vick just like they did last time. Bear down, Chicago Bears. This is your season, these next two games. Don’t fuck it up, we’re counting on you!
Final score: Chicago Bears 31, Philly Eagles 24