ReFo: Bears @ Eagles, Week 16
While highlighting some of the game's top performers, Ben Stockwell discusses continued issues for Chicago and Philadelphia's momentum heading into Week 17.
ReFo: Bears @ Eagles, Week 16
In a weekend jam packed with playoff implications it seemed fitting that we culminated the Sunday slate with a team missing their opportunity to wrap up their division a week early to set up a do-or-die decider in the final week of the season. And didn’t the Bears achieve that spectacularly?
After the Cowboys snuck out of Washington with a come-from-behind win earlier in the day, the Eagles knew that win or lose they were headed for a division decider with the Cowboys next Sunday in Arlington but that didn’t stop them from taking care of business and steam-rolling the Bears’ ambitions to clinch the NFC North early on. Instead of stumbling into that playoff off the back of a home defeat, the Eagles are riding a tidal wave of momentum on both sides of the ball into that crunch match.
Chicago – Three Performances of Note
Defense Shown Up, Yet Again
Bears fans won’t thank me for bringing this up again, but it’s hard to start anywhere but with the defense which was ripped to shreds by the Eagles’ offense on the ground and through the air. The Bears’ defense surrendered 13 missed tackles to the Eagles, a number leading to big plays and six of them coming in the secondary. When will the defense, and in particular the tackling, cease to be the focus for performances of note? Well, perhaps when they fix the issue or, more likely, when that poor tackling ultimately costs them their participation in the postseason (either before it starts or early on) and they are sitting at home in January.
Once again the Bears’ safeties were a root cause of many problems with Major Wright and Chris Conte registering negative grades and multiple missed tackles once again. In front of them the return of Lance Briggs (-4.3) wasn’t the magic pill to fix a linebacking corps which was all too easily spread out by the Eagles allowing for massive and easy gains utilizing speed to get upfield through those giant channels.
Tough Outing for Forte
The Bears were smashed out of this game early by the Eagles’ offense which left Chicago’s without much of an avenue to respond. Though he didn’t get the opportunities on the ground and got even less help, Matt Forte’s poor day in pass protection showed up for all to see surrendering a pair of sacks and another pressure on only 11 snaps in pass protection. Forte’s ability in pass protection is frequently lauded and I’m not going to say that he doesn’t have ability in pass protection, but his performance this season certainly hasn’t been one that you would characterize as one of the league’s best.
Forte has surrendered 17 pressures on 150 pass protection snaps this season and has the worst blocking grade (-5.8) among the league’s running backs. All that matters for the Bears right now is next week against the Packers and Chicago will be looking for Forte to rebound in with his role in the pass game. Last time against the Packers, Forte surrendered no pressure on a season-low seven snaps in pass protection while also collecting 54 yards on five receptions, forcing three missed tackles as a receiver.
No Threat off the Edge
Returning to the Bears’ defense for a moment, one of their many weaknesses this season has been defending the edge where a sharp downturn in form from Julius Peppers has been paired with some ineffective play from those around him. That continued last night where the Bears’ defensive ends were caught playing passively against both run and pass to afford the Philadelphia offense all too much time and space in which to operate. As a quartet, Peppers, Shea McClellin, David Bass and Cheta Ozougwu combined to earn a -11.1 overall grade with none of them earning a positive grade individually in either their pass rush or their run defense.
On the edge they were either sealed inside when the Eagles looked to get around them or were all too easily kicked out by James Casey among others when they looked to cutback in between the Bears’ defensive ends and defensive tackles. Nearly half of the seven pressures that these four defensive ends registered as a unit came either unblocked or in pursuit of Nick Foles. Just another area of this Chicago defense that needs to raise its game and fast if their season isn’t to be over a week from today.
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
It All Starts Up Front
There can be a tendency to focus in on favorable matchups for skill position players in this ever growing “fantasy football” culture but those favorable matchups will often start up front and that was certainly the case last night where the gaudy stats from the Philadelphia offense started with the dominance in the trenches. All five members of the Eagles’ starting offensive line earned positive grades as both run blockers and pass protectors with Jason Peters (+6.9) and Todd Herremans (+3.1) notching season high overall grades.
The Eagles’ offensive domination was most obvious on the ground where the this offensive line’s ruthless execution of Chip Kelly’s offense paved the way for the Eagles’ runners to gain a gaudy 129 yards before contact on backfield carries at an average in excess of 4.0 yards per carry. Last time out against the Cowboys the Eagles’ line blocked well even if the stats didn’t reflect, and more execution like this next week will give the Eagles an excellent chance to return home for a playoff game when the calendar flips over to 2014.
Defense Feeds From Offensive Momentum
It’s not often that as a defense you will be defending a three-score lead when you play your seventh snap of the game. That was the situation the Eagles found themselves in when they stepped out at the 1:22 mark of the first quarter, already confident that the game was well in hand and that they could attack and go in search of big plays of their own. They did just that putting up points through the ever impressive pairing of Cedric Thornton (+2.0 run defense) and Brandon Boykin (+2.6 coverage) by way of a safety and a pick-six.
Taking advantage of a heavy pass bias, Mychal Kendricks and Trent Cole pinned their ears back to notch a combined five sacks with Kendricks dislodging the ball on one of those to help see the Bears off the field another time. Barring another fast start by their offense next week, the Eagles’ defense will surely face a different test in Texas but the confidence drawn from this victory (so long as it doesn’t spill over into arrogance) can surely be only a good thing.
McCoy and Brown Slice and Dice
When you set up the kind of lanes that the Eagles’ offensive line did last night it would be rude for the running backs not to oblige with a big night and neither LeSean McCoy nor Bryce Brown passed up the opportunities presented to them. McCoy earned his highest rush grade of the season topping 100 yards for the sixth time this season and on only 18 carries taking his season total for missed tackles to 55 in the process, already a career high with one game still to play.
Brown had his struggles early on getting the short end of the stick on some rare blocking breakdowns but got his big play with the game dead, taking advantage of a channel through the secondary to get to Chris Conte in space, easily getting by the Bears’ safety to turn on the jets and run in the Eagles’ longest play of the day. Even Chris Polk got in on the act with a 10-yard score — again running past Conte en route to the end zone. Polk followed up his score by hurtling downfield and tackling Devin Hester short of the 20-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. A banner day for the Eagles’ backfield but it will count for nothing if they don’t back it up against the Cowboys next Sunday.
– Amidst the carnage for the Bears, Martellus Bennett earned his highest grade of the season (+3.1) pairing solid run blocking with solid contributions and the Chicago’s longest play of the day in the passing game.
– Nick Foles’ NFL passer rating did drop a little when he was blitzed last night. Notching a 140.6 mark against a pass rush that dipped away to a “mere” 112.0 passer rating against the blitz.
– Rotating in on the defensive line (20 snaps) Clifton Geathers set a career high with three defensive stops.
PFF Game Ball
Making something happen with just about every carry, LeSean McCoy made the most of his line’s dominance and emphasized just what a devastating fit he is for this offense. Can he pull out one more big game to help propel the Eagles to 10 wins and that all-important NFC East crown?
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.