PHILADELPHIA — The Chicago Bears faced yet another fork-in-the-road contest Monday night in the midst of their curious 2011 odyssey, and came away with an impressive 30-24 victory.
In a seesaw battle, Jay Cutler’s five-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett with 12:18 left in the fourth quarter put the Bears back in front to stay at 27-24. Robbie Gould’s third field goal of the game from 22 yards out extended the Bears’ lead to 30-24 with 3:58 remaining, and the Bears defense stopped the Eagles on downs with less than two minutes to go to seal the victory.
The Bears improved their record to 5-3 and set up a viable opportunity to catch the second-place Detroit Lions(6-2) in the NFC North next Sunday at Soldier Field.
Trailing 27-24, the Eagles’ next drive ended with an incomplete pass off a fake punt, giving the Bears the ball at their own 42-yard line with just over nine minutes left. Rookie punter Chas Henry’s pass to a wide-open Colt Anderson was woefully short, giving the ball to the Bears on downs and setting up Gould’s final field goal.
Gould’s 38-yard field goal with 25 seconds left in the third quarter had pulled the Bears to within 24-20 entering the final period.
LeSean McCoy’s 33-yard touchdown run gave the Eagles a 24-17 lead over the Bears with six minutes left in the third quarter. McCoy tied an Eagles record by scoring a touchdown in eight straight games. He equaled the mark of Steve Van Buren in 1947.
The Eagles had regained possession when Matt Forte lost his second fumble of the game at the 6:45 mark of the quarter. He originally was ruled down but Eagles coach Andy Reid challenged and got the call reversed.
Ronnie Brown’s four-yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the quarter had pulled the Eagles into a 17-17 tie. The drive covered 80 yards in 15 plays.
The Bears had taken a 17-10 lead with 48 seconds left in the first half on a two-yard touchdown run by Marion Barber, and that was the score at halftime.
The touchdown was set up when DeSean Jackson fumbled on a punt and Sam Hurd recovered on the Eagles 11-yard line. The Bears then benefitted from a roughing-the-passer penalty against the Eagles’Jason Babinthat kept the drive alive.
The Eagles had tied the game 10-10 with 1:38 left in the first half when Brian Rolle stripped the ball from Forte and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.
Forte entered the game not having fumbled in 347 touches this season.
Eagles kicker Alex Henery’s 47-yard field goal had cut the Bears’ lead to 10-3 with 2:09 left in the period.
Gould’s 51-yard field goal had given the Bears a 10-0 lead with 7:27 remaining until halftime.
The Bears got a scare on the Eagles’ next possession when defensive end Julius Peppers went down with an apparent left knee injury. He left the field under his own power, got treatment and returned later in the drive to sack Michael Vick on a third-down play, which set up Henery’s field goal.
The Bears struck first, with Cutler hitting tight end Matt Spaeth on a 5-yard touchdown pass at the 9:18 mark of the first quarter. It capped a 12-play, 79-yard drive behind Forte, who broke off runs of 25 and 14 yards.
The teams proceeded to exchange punts, and the Bears led 7-0 after one quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Devin Hester’s return to the game was ruled questionable because of a left ankle injury.
The Eagles suffered injury losses on defense, with safety Nate Allen ruled out for the game with a concussion and cornerback Asante Samuel having to go to the locker room for treatment what was described as a “groin laceration.” He returned in the second quarter.
Philadelphia drove into the red zone early in the second quarter, but the drive ended abruptly when Vick’s pass was tipped by linebacker Lance Briggs and intercepted by safety Major Wright, who returned the pick 36 yards to the Bears’ 48, setting up Gould’s field goal.
At halftime the Eagles honored Buddy Ryan, the former Bears defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl XX champions who then left to become Eagles head coach. Ryan is battling cancer.
The Bears had hoped to capitalize on their previous success against Vick.
“One thing you have to do is be able to match him a little bit athletic-ability-wise, and we do,” Smith said. “We want 11 athletes on the field. You’re going to miss him from time to time. You just need other players there. Our style of defense, gang tackle, everybody get to the ball you need that for a player like that. We’re just going to play our normal defensive game that we believe in. We’re not going to change philosophies or anything like that this week.”
A huge anticipated focus on the game was on Bears rookie safety Chris Conte.
“I know he was a teammate of DeSean Jackson at Cal, so Chris is planning on being tested, but the only way to have an opportunity to make plays is if you are tested,” Smith said. “That’s just a part of life at the safety position and I think he’ll be up to the challenge.”
The Bears were 4-3 in games following its off week under Smith, including 4-1 since 2006.
The Bears had a 29-11-1 edge over the Eagles in the all-time series, dating back to 1933. The Bears had won three of the previous four games against the Eagles, including last year’s contest, 31-26, at Soldier Field.