Birds Beat Bears, Overcome Worst Game They Can Play

The Eagles and Jalen Hurts, who has become a major player in the MVP race, went to Chicago to take on a 3-10 team. The only team to have clinched a spot in the playoffs was set to take on one of the teams that had already been eliminated.

You might have thought the records were reversed by the play to start the game, though. MVP candidate Jalen Hurts made poor decisions in the RPO game to keep Miles Sanders from ever getting the ball. Instead, he chose to throw and show off an impressive start of five completions on 12 attempts for just 92 yards and two interceptions.

Meanwhile, the pass rush managed to dampen the frequent 7-8 yard plays that the defense was giving up regularly just enough to keep the Bears off the board.

That changed when, after a failed recovery by Fletcher Cox of a fumble forced by Haason Reddick, Reddick then embarrassed himself by being all over field and literally on top of him but did nothing to bring him down or even slow him up. It lead to a 39-yard run and the Bears only points in the first half.

Meanwhile, Hurts looked like a deer in the headlights. It was as though the Hurts we saw the last three weeks had gotten injured and now the Eagles were starting an entirely new quarterback who just happened to look the same and have the same name. The only think Hurts seemed to really have going for him in the first half was his connection with DeVonta Smith; 104 of his 139 passing yards were to Smith on just three catches. It was those catches that set up the field goal as well as the QB run call from just outside the red zone.

The first 28 minutes of this game were about as bad as this Eagles team has ever played on offense and the defense barely held up.

That seemed like it was on pace to change with Jalen Hurts deciding to stop sucking and the defense making tackles to force a quick three and out. Instead of taking a three-score lead, however, Miles Sanders chose to take over the mantle of sucking and immediately fumbled the ball away on the next offensive drive, handing the Bears a give-me with only a 15-yard field.

The Bears, aided by a Hurts-led three-and-out, were in position to take the lead back until Avonte Maddox forced a fumble and it, luckily for the Eagles, died on the spot to prevent it from going out of bounds.

That gave the Eagles the opportunity to look to break the game open. Unfortunately, Jalen Hurts took a solid 15 seconds on second down to stand in the pocket and take a sack instead of throwing the ball away. That left the Eagles without points as they failed to convert a fourth and six which could have simply been a first down had Hurts done one of the most basic duties of a quarterback and know when to throw the ball away.

A few drops by the Bears wound up with a punt that had the Eagles pinned inside their own five-yard line. AJ Brown dropped yet another easy pass to setup what was looking like a punt from their own four, but DeVonta Smith stepped up again to get the Birds two first downs. It took a conversion on fourth and three, but the Eagles managed to maintain that drive and run the ball consistently for the first time on that drive. It ended with what the Eagles deserved for their play: a 38-yard field goal attempt that hit the post and was no good.

It took another three-and-out by the defense for the Eagles to get the big play they needed, a 68-yard reception to AJ Brown that setup the Eagles inside the Chicago 10. The Birds punched that in and, although the defense yielded a touchdown, the Eagles offense managed another first down after securing the onside kick to allow them to salt the game away.

This was a game where the Eagles played just about as poorly as they possibly could and they still managed to come away with a win.

Offensive MVPs: DeVonta Smith

AJ Brown might have had more receptions and more yards, but he also had twice the targets and a bunch of drops. It was Smith who carried the Eagles offense for most of the game, totaling 126 yards and making all the conversions the Eagles needed to prevent even more short fields and to setup multiple scores for the Eagles in a game where they only put points up on four occasions. Smith especially carried the offense in the first quarter, when there was seemingly no other player on the offense (outside of offensive linemen) who were a positive contributor to the team. He also made the recovery of the onside kick at the 2:42 mark.

Defensive MVP: Josh Sweat and Javon Hargrave

The defense took plenty of hits in this one, but it was the pair of Josh Sweat and Javon Hargrave who really shined in this one. Sweat finished with six tackled and two sacks while Hargrave finished with three tackles and two sacks, but the pair need to be mentioned together in this one. The pair really seemed to benefit each other with nearly all of their splash plays coming on a play where one player freed the other up. It didn’t show up much late in the game, but it was a significant reason for the Eagles leading at the half.

Game Notes

  • The Eagles pass rush being able to bring down Fields and the deep coverage of the Eagles corners early on was about the only thing that kept the game tied with no score entering the second quarter. The defense was giving up two to seven yards on every play while the offense spent no time on the field for that first quarter.
  • While fans complained about the lack of carries for running backs in the first half and seemed to blame it on the coaches, there were plenty of RPOs that could have given Sanders the ball and helped to extend drives. Hurts pulled every one before the two-minute warning down for a pass despite his obvious struggles and a poor rush defense across from him.
  • If the Eagles had a kicker say they didn’t want to attempt and suggested punting from the 30-yard line, I would expect the coaching staff to make them kick anyway (or potentially go with their backup kicker) and then cut that guy the next morning. The fact that the Bears coaching staff decided to go ahead and punt is embarrassing in itself, whether their team had won the game or not.
  • Quez Watkins was brutal in this game. He had multiple carries, none that actually went for any significant yardage to warrant he get the ball more, and multiple plays where he didn’t run his route properly. He looked more active running out of bounds to entirely avoid any contact at all than he did trying to gain yardage at any point.
  • Elsewhere in the league, the Eagles pick from the Saints dropped in value as the five-win Falcons dropped a win to the four-win Saints, which also figures to help allow Tom Brady and his horrid record to win the division.
  • Elsewhere still, the Jaguars and Cowboys are tied in overtime. Update: The Cowboys have lost to the Jaguars.

Injury Notes

  • No significant injuries are known at this point.

Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears – December 18, 2022