By Tucker Bagley
The Eagles continue their defense of their Super Bowl title against the Chicago Bears in the Wild Card Round today. The Birds have out-played the Bears for much of the afternoon, but thanks to a pair of interceptions, they trail, 6-3. Here's what happened in the first 30 minutes of playoff action:
- The Eagles did a great job of keeping the Bears vaunted defense off-balance on their opening drive, marching 50 yards on 10 plays. Nick Foles got rid of the ball quick and the big play of the possession was a 22-yard screen pass to Wendell Smallwood. A sack by Leonard Floyd did end the drive and forced the Eagles to settle for a field goal, but Foles looked very decisive and the Bears secondary seemed over-matched against Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery.
- Speaking of Jeffery, good things are happening when Foles target the ex-Bear. Jeffery caught a 13-yard pass to convert a third down on the Birds opening drive and later picked up 12 and 30 on back-to-back plays before Foles's first interception.
- Avonte Maddox is a rookie fourth-round pick and even though his interception was (rightfully) ruled an incomplete pass, he has proven to be an absolute baller for the Birds. Credit him for coming back on the next play to force an incompletion on a deep pass on the very next play.
- The Eagles got screwed by the "no clear recovery" rule against the Cowboys, but it came to their aid in the second quarter, when an incomplete pass that should've been ruled complete, then fumbled, was left standing after a review because no player went after the ball.
- LaRoy Reynolds was flagged for an offside penalty on the Bears punt attempt at the end of their first drive, nullifying a touchback. On his next kick, Pat O'Donnell got the ball to bounce out of bounds inside the 1-yard-line. The Eagles went three-and-out and the Bears got the ball back in positive territory to start their next drive. Fortunately for the Eagles, Chicago went three-and-out on that drive.
- Another penalty cost the Eagles in the second quarter when a personal foul on Michael Bennett extended a Bears drive that would've been ended had he not punched Kyle Long in the neck. Mitch Trubisky hit Tarik Cohen for a 19-yard completion on the next play to set up a game-tying field goal.
The Bears defense has preyed on opposing offenses this year, forcing 36 turnovers in the regular season, tops in the NFL. As a result, Chicago also held to top spot in average starting field position. The only points the Eagles have allowed today came after Foles's first interception in the second quarter. Foles later took points off the board with his second pick of the day. The Bears offense has looked far from explosive today and the Eagles have out-paced them in total offense, but those two turnovers have been absolute killers.
Second Half X-Factor
The Eagles defense has shown up today and with Trubisky shaken up, the pass rush will be a huge factor in the second half. The Eagles don't have a quarterback hit yet, but they have forced the Bears QB to get rid of the ball quickly and Chicago converted just one of their first five third-down opportunities.