The Bears wrapped up the Thanksgiving weekend by stuffing some birds from Philadelphia and sending Michael Vick and his Eagles home with their tails between their legs following a 31-26 win. The big concern coming into the game was the big play ability of the the high flying Eagles but as it turns out, it was Jay Cutler and the Bears whose big plays keyed the upset victory. Check out the NFL.com highlights here. This game marked the first time all season where all three phases of the game came together for the Bears. The offense made big plays and controlled the tempo when it needed to, set up with great field position for much of the evening by terrific special teams returns. The Bears defense bottled up Michael Vick and the vaunted Eagles attack, using the Cover-2 defense to protect against the big plays that the Eagles are knows for and forcing the Eagles to settle for the underneath stuff and field goals.
The biggest surprise had to be the sudden emergence of the big play offense. Each of Jay Cutler’s four touchdowns was set up by big plays. Check out the big plays that keyed the offensive output:
- Matt Forte’s 61 yard run, which set up the first Earl Bennett TD.
- Jay Cutler slip screen to Devin Hester goes for 39 yards. That sets up the Johnny Knox 20-yard TD.
- Heading into halftime with a slim 1-point lead, Cutler hit Earl Bennett for a 30-yard gain, which set up Earl’s 2nd TD.
- Early in the 3rd quarter, Cutler scrambles and is able to find Hester along the sidelines for a 34-yard game. The next completion went to Olsen for another touchdown.
The offense spread the ball around effectively and efficiently. Jay Cutler only finished the day 14 for 21 for 247 yards and the aforementioned 4 touchdowns for a career high 146.2 passer rating. Another plus from Cutler and the offense – ZERO turnovers. Here are a few more offensive notes from the game:
- It’s amazing what a difference the offense can make when they don’t turn the ball over and score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals.
- There was a stretch there in the second quarter when it looked like the Eagles had figured out the Bears offense. Cutler got sacked to end successive drives. Give Mike Tice and the offensive line credit for getting it together and tightening up the protections.
- I like the fire from Jay Cutler, but the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty arguing a missed pass interference is totally unacceptable.
- The unsung drive of the game was a 17 play, 83 yard drive that gobbled up over 10 minutes of clock through the third quarter. The drive only resulted in a field goal, but it kept Vick and the Eagles offense on the sidelines. It made a huge difference.
On the defensive side of the ball, I hate to admit this as a rabid anti-Lovite, but you have to credit Lovie Smith’s Cover-2 defense. By its very nature, it is set up to stop big plays, but it is most effective when a pass rush is generated from the front four. Today, the Bears got that. Julius Peppers and the defensive line were able to get steady pressure on Vick and the Eagles. Give big credit to all the guys up front – even the nearly forgotten Tommie Harris was able to make a big play, deflecting a pass that Chris Harris intercepted on the key play of the game.
With the Bears clinging to a narrow 1 point lead and the Eagles marching in to take the lead late in the first half, Tommie Harris got his big paw up and deflected Michael Vick’s pass that Chris Harris picked off in the end zone and returned to the 37 yard line. A few plays later, Cutler and the Bears scored a touchdown to extend their lead to 21-13 and never look back.
With the win, and a Packers loss to the Falcons, the Bears take firm control of the NFC North. The win ensures a better season than the last two and a winning season and trip to the playoffs appear to be all but certain.
The Bears head to Detroit next week to face a well-rested Lions team for a re-match of the highly controversial Week 1 game most noted for the Calvin Johnson non-TD. The Bears cannot afford a letdown.