Sunday will mark the first Chicago Bears playoff game in eight seasons as they will host the defending Super Bowl Champions Philadelphia Eagles.
Both teams share are very similar to one another as both head coaches worked together under Andy Reid in Kansas City and have run-pass option-based offenses. Defensively, both team’s defenses focus on stopping opposing offenses through relentless pass rushing with quality front sevens.
Here are five keys to victory for the Chicago Bears against the Philadelphia Eagles:
Stay true to yourself no matter what happens
One thing that has haunted past Bears teams in past playoff games has been their inability to stick to what they do best if they get off to a bad start. In the 2001 Divisional Round game against the Eagles, Philadelphia took a quick six-point lead.
Instead of staying with a running game that was their best offensive trait, the Bears relied on passing the ball which allowed Philadelphia to control the game throughout winning 33-19. In 2005, the Carolina Panthers took a quick seven-point lead because of Steve Smith. Chicago was successful during the regular season running the ball with Thomas Jones who had rushed for over 1,300 yards, but the offense tried to get back into the game passing the ball.
Quarterback Rex Grossman struggled to find a rhythm as he completed just two of his first 12 passes for just three yards as the Bears trailed 16-7 at halftime and lost 29-21.
On Sunday, regardless of how the game unfolds, it is imperative for Matt Nagy to stay true to his game plan and keep his composure in his coaching as any wavering could affect his players.
Chess match with a former employee
Eagles coach Doug Pederson and Bears coach Matt Nagy were both offensive coaches together under Andy Reid for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2013 to 2015. Pederson was the Chief’s offensive coordinator before being hired by Philadelphia in 2016 while Nagy served as the quarterback’s coach from 2013 to 2017 when he was promoted to offensive coordinator for the final five games last season.
Both coaches have similar offenses that utilize RPOs to create unpredictability in defending both the running and passing game. For Nagy, the best thing he can do is not rely on the system, but rely on how his players have added their special uniqueness to his offensive scheme. The key will be the speed that his players possess at the skill positions including wide receivers Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, and running back Tarik Cohen.
All three can create big plays both in the running game and passing game which makes the offense that more unpredictable.
Trubisky’s athletic ability could be the key factor on Sunday
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has had a strong finish to the season as he has not thrown an interception in his last three games. In that span, Trubisky has had a completed 75 percent of passes and has averaged 214 yards passing. His best attribute has been his ability to elude pressure and scramble for first downs.
Those numbers have been down in the final three games as he has only 11 rushing attempts for 35 yards. In the two games before, Trubisky has 16 attempts for 66 yards. Against a Philadelphia defense that could limit his time in the pocket, it would be wise for him to take advantage of an aggressive defense and look to scramble. Furthermore, the Bears could make Trubisky’s rushing ability apart of the game plan emphasizing bootlegs similar to what was seen in their game against the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago.
Don’t get fooled by the Eagles fast moving offense
The main reason why the Bears are back in the playoffs is because of their dominant defense which is third best in the NFL. One reason why they have been so efficient this season has been their knowledge in diagnosing plays. Chicago’s defense rarely allows for an opposing player to find open space for a big gain.
The Eagles offense is predicated on having their wide receivers in motion to create confusion for the defense. Against the Redskins last week, Nelson Agholor caught two touchdown passes on plays where he was in motion before the snap. It will be important for the Bears defenders to stay in their gaps and avoid getting confused by any pre-snap motions by the Eagles.
Learn from past matchup and capitalize on mistakes
The two teams last season in Philadelphia as the Eagles defeated the Bears 31-3. Although the Bears defense gave up four touchdowns to the Eagles offense, they did force three turnovers.
The defense forced three fumbles but also missed several interceptions opportunities. Bears defenders dropped three possible interceptions against Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Even worse was that Chicago’s offense could not make the most of the turnovers as they failed to score following any of the turnovers.
On Sunday, the Bears need to make the most of any forced turnovers as in the playoffs, any chance to score points is vital.