The Philadelphia Eagles traveled to Chicago this week to begin their preseason against the Bears in a matchup between two of the NFL’s most exciting offenses.
The league’s increased emphasis on enforcing illegal contact and defensive holding penalties was a major theme of the offseason, and officials have not been shy about throwing flags so far in this year’s preseason games. This game was no exception, as the teams combined for 23 penalties.
The teams were still able to combine for 850 yards of total offense in the game. Here are the notable performances.
Chicago – Three Performances of Note
Tough Night for Special Teams
Marc Trestman can not be happy with the way that his special teams units performed. The Bears had a field goal attempt blocked in the first quarter, allowed Eagle Josh Huff to return a kickoff for a touchdown without being touched in the second, and later watched Michael Spurlock muff and lose a punt after colliding with a teammate. Increased attention to detail on special teams will need to be a focus for a Chicago team that finished 21st in our cumulative special teams rankings in 2013.
Tight end Zach Miller turned in an excellent effort, earning a +3.1 receiving grade, and was also the only Chicago tight end to finish with a positive run blocking grade. Miller caught all six passes in his direction, including two touchdowns, and also forced three missed tackles in the open field — a false start penalty in the second quarter was his only notable miscue. If he can carry this effort as a receiver into the regular season, Miller should make an excellent complement to the Bears’ weapons at wide receiver and running back.
Chicago’s offensive line was badly outclassed by the Eagles’ front seven, consistently struggling to create movement in the run game. Tight ends Matthew Mulligan (-2.3) and Dante Rosario (-3.0) were pushed around consistently, and each of the team’s backup linemen in the game finished with a negative run blocking grade as well. The Bears’ backfield averaged just 2.9 yards per carry, but did their best with what their line gave them. Of the team’s 92 rushing yards, 58 yards came after contact with a defender.
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
Backup Quarterback Battle
Jets castoff Mark Sanchez got the first crack at the backup quarterback job, replacing starter Nick Foles in the second quarter. Sanchez led the offense to two touchdown drives of 50+ yards, both of which were finished by touchdown runs by second year running back Matthew Tucker. Tucker showed some ability as a goal line back, but also lost an ugly fumble after colliding with a teammate in the third quarter. Matt Barkley replaced Sanchez in the third quarter. Barkley was less consistent than Sanchez, leading a 94-yard drive, but also throwing an interception after forcing a throw to a tightly covered Josh Huff.
In addition to their dominant showing in run defense, the Eagles also got strong pass rushing performances from their front seven. The team totaled 19 pressures (a sack, six hits, and 12 hurries), led by defensive end Vinny Curry‘s sack, two hits, and a hurry that contributed to his +3.9 pass rush grade. Brandon Graham (+2.3) and Cedric Thornton (+2.3) also impressed with their work in the pass game.
2014 Draft Class
Marcus Smith was something of a surprise pick in the first round of this year’s draft, but he held his own in his first preseason game. Smith finished with a +2.3 overall grade that was highlighted by some strong work in run defense and a batted pass. Receiver Jordan Matthews had a different experience in his first game. Matthews’ -3.5 overall grade was the worst of any Eagle, as the former Commodore dropped two passes. Matthews was unable to make much happen when he did catch the ball either, finishing with just 14 yards on his four receptions. Seventh round NT Beau Allen had a solid debut, holding his own in run defense and batting down a pass.
– Chicago had trouble getting to Philadelphia’s quarterbacks, finishing with just nine total pressures.
– Bears linebackers Shea McClellin (-2.7) and Jon Bostic (-3.1) had a tough time in pass coverage, consistently struggling to get to an appropriate depth on deep crossing routes.
– Safety Nate Allen led all Eagle defenders with a +3.6 overall grade, earning positive marks in coverage, run defense and as a pass rusher.
PFF Game Ball
Zach Miller earns the game ball after a solid all around effort (+3.1 receiving, +0.2 run blocking).