Bears’ mission: Keep Eagles from soaring
Two months ago when they played at Washington, the Bears’ defense got a sample of the up-tempo offense it will see Sunday night in Philadelphia against the Eagles.
There are at least two major problems with using that game as a template, though. First, the Eagles (8-6) do the whole hurry-up offense better and faster than Washington. Second, the Bears (8-6) barely slowed down Washington’s offense, which piled up 499 yards in a 45-41 victory.
“It’s very similar to the (Washington) type of offense, their zone read,” said Bears defensive lineman Corey Wootton of the Eagles. “They try to confuse you a little bit. So it’s crucial that we play gap sound and we have our option responsibilities because you see on film, when teams weren’t doing what they were supposed to, they gash them a little bit.
“Against (Washington) we didn’t fit it the way we needed to. A big focus this week has been going over repetition on what our responsibilities are on the option, who’s got the dive, who’s got the quarterback, who’s got the pitch. So we’ve got to stay gap-to-gap sound on that.”
The Eagles average 414 yards per game, second in the NFL only to the Broncos, and they’re tied for first with Denver, averaging 6.3 yards per snap. Behind versatile workhorse LeSean “Shady” McCoy, the Eagles lead the NFL with 152.9 rushing yards per game and a 5.0-yard average per carry.
That’s bad enough news for the Bears, who have the NFL’s worst run defense, allowing 152.9 yards per game.
But it gets worse. The Eagles also are No. 10 in passing yards and No. 3 in average gain per pass play. Quarterback Nick Foles leads the league with a 117.0 passer rating on the strength of 23 TD passes and just 2 picks.
The Bears’ defense has shown signs of improvement in recent weeks in terms of being gap sound and tackling, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
“We tackled better last week,” coach Marc Trestman said. “We minimized explosive plays last week. There were some, but they were still minimal (comparatively).
The Browns had just two plays longer than 18 yards, but they were pass plays of 43 and 44 yards. And the Eagles are a great deal more explosive than the Cleveland Browns.
“It’s good that we’re ascending,” Trestman said. “Certainly we’ve got to play better this week. We’re playing against a very explosive football team that stretches the field both horizontally and vertically, in the running game as well as the passing game. This is really going to test our defense this week, no doubt about it.”
Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker hopes to have linebacker Lance Briggs back Sunday night, at least on a partial basis. He’s also counting on continued stout play from tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, who continued inching closer to his Pro Bowl form in his third game back from a groin injury; he played 40-plus snaps for the second straight game.
“He was very active in the (Browns) game,” Tucker said of Ratliff. “He made some plays in the run game. He did a nice job in the pass rush. He (created) some pressure and the pocket collapsed. That was huge. He brings great energy to the group. He is very confident. He’s a great guy to have out there.”
Tucker will need contributions from everyone if the Bears hope to slow down the Eagles, who have averaged 31.3 points in their last six games, including last week’s 48-30 loss at Minnesota that snapped a five-game winning streak.
“Everyone (must be) at the point of attack on every play,” Tucker said. “You just can’t be (focusing) on one thing. You have to be sound in the run game and in the pass game. You have to prepare for both.”
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