By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)
Thank goodness it’s November — not only does all the snow make more sense in this month than in October, it also makes for a clean slate for the Chicago Bears after a winless October took the team from the heights of NFC contention to the basement of the North division.
In case you were wondering, the last victory for the Bears came against the Minnesota Vikings on the last Sunday of September. Perhaps the toughest loss of the season to date came last week against the Chargers. If the Bears are going to make any strides for themselves this season then they must start November off right before its too late.
This is a dangerous moment for the Bears as another loss could irreversibly undermine the winning culture the Bears tried establishing this season.
Rewind back to the end of the playoffs a season ago, which resulted in a devastating loss to the Eagles at home in front of the eyes of the nation. Fast forward to this Sunday and its the Eagles hosting the Bears in a quasi-rematch. With how much the Bears have struggled recently, though, it doesn’t feel like this is a rematch Chicago fans anticipate.
One big difference from the playoff game to today will be the Eagles quarterback, who instead of being playoff hero Nick Foles will be Carson Wentz, who was injured and unavailable for a second straight playoff run after ceding to Foles for the Eagles prior Super Bowl run.
Both of these teams are similar in how they are built with both being lead by ex-Andy Reid assistants. Eagles coach Doug Pederson got a huge victory in Buffalo last weekend to get his team back to .500, a win Sunday could wrestle Philly control of the NFC East.
Meanwhile, the Bears just desperately need to end their losing streak, which would get the team back to .500 and possibly out of last place. Both these teams have a good deal of warts and are looking to have a win clean them up some. If not, then either the Eagles or Bears could be relegated to the NFC playoff outhouse. Here are the four goals for the Bears to get a victory on Sunday.
Arial Attack — Most fans probably are cringing at the thought of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky throwing the ball downfield. It has been a struggle for Trubisky to make difference-making plays, but if there is a silver lining to his season so far it is that he had his best game last week.
Maybe Trubisky can build off of his performance against the Chargers, but make no mistake this game will reveal more of Trubisky’s true level of play.
The strength of the Eagles defense is in its front line. They have a few pass rushers that can really create havoc and it all starts with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. When the defense is rolling it is because they get after the quarterback and stop the run.
Where the Eagles are weak defensively is in its secondary. They have a very aggressive secondary on top of a lot of injuries. There will be passing lanes and open receivers downfield for Trubisky, especially if the Bears commit to the run and use play action.
Of course another area Trubisky has struggled in is not recognizing pressure and getting the ball away quickly when needed. He must make strides in this area for the passing game to be more consistent. Remember the blueprint teams will use to attack Trubisky, lots of pressure and pre snap movement to confuse him.
Teams will stop blitzing if they gain some respect for his downfield throwing. The goal here is simply for Trubisky to make a claim at being a starting quarterback in the NFL by shredding a bad pass defense in the Eagles.
Meet the Challenge — A huge part of Chicago’s current three-game losing streak is that the defense hasn’t been playing up to its expected elite level. Sure, the biggest failure for the Bears by far is their offense, but the defense was supposed to be able to withstand any offensive shortcomings. At one point it may have been up for the task, but without defensive tackle Akiem Hicks it has been a struggle to maintain their 2018 level of play.
The Bears have been putting together great halves or quarters of defense, but they seemingly can’t make the critical game-ending stop to decide a contest, even when the offense has gotten them leads late into the game. One thing the Eagles can boast is a strong offensive line that might be best in the league. Will the Bears defense still be able to create pressure and stop their multi-headed run attack (led by former Bear bruiser Jordan Howard) without Hicks and against this O-line?
This Bears defense has done a great job keeping the Bears in just about every game but the team needs more. Goal here is for the Bears defense to be solid for a full 60 minutes and make one elite, game-ending stop if they are put into such a position.
Certainly motivation to stop Philly should be high after last year’s playoff drive, where the Eagles took the lead late and forced pressure on the Bears (and Cody Parkey) that couldn’t be lived up to. One great half of defense won’t be enough against the explosive offense they’re facing. Sunday’s battle of the trenches will set the tone for the entire game.
Hall of Fame Matchup — Speaking of setting the tone for the entire game. A huge issue for the Bears in that playoff loss to the Eagles was how little pressure the Bears could get on the quarterback.
You would think with edge rusher Khalil Mack and stud tackle Hicks that the Bears would have made things hard on Nick Foles, but stepping up as a road block in front of Mack and company were future Hall of Fame left tackle Jason Peters and arguably the best right tackle in football in Lane Johnson. The Eagles’ tackle duo is mighty impressive and they can be left one on one to deal with Mack, especially Peters.
In that playoff game Peters absolutely locked up Mack, showing in another pressure situation why he is a Hall of Fame type player. Hopefully Mack is able to start a nice spree of impactful plays of his own in this game because they have been very sparse from him as of late.
Again, this challenge will not be easy for Mack but it should make for great viewing for all fans wanting a one on one battle to focus in on.
Another element to keep in mind is that Foles, far from a mobile QB, really didn’t run much or well but Wentz has that ability. Goal for Mack is to make an impact even though there will be times that he gets locked down. It only takes one pressure for Mack to make a significant impact.
Don’t Burn Yourself — A couple of offensive stars for the Eagles are ex-Bears — running back Jordan Howard and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. If the Eagles are playing well offensively their stat lines will likely include big days from Jeffery and Howard.
When Wentz has been in trouble he has found Jeffery a lot to be his main playmaker on the outside with tight end Zach Ertz dominating the middle. But one thing the Eagles do as a team is establish the run, averaging 125 yards a game. Probably both of these guys, especially Howard, are going to be very motivated to show up the Bears.
Defensively it will be tough for the Bears, but they are going up against that “Kansas City” offense, which of course the Bears are trying to run themselves. If anything the Bears should be well prepared for this offense.
Both of these teams are familiar with each other. Limit those two playmakers and the Bears should have a good chance to win.
Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR