Cutler must deal with confusing, hungry Eagles 'D'

Cutler must deal with confusing, hungry Eagles 'D'
November 28, 2010, 12:19 am
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Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010
6:26 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Bears players have admitted that often it is easier to come back from a good win than a bad loss (witness the Bears disaster vs. New York after the MNF win over Green Bay). The Eagles have had not one, but three good wins in the form of the Indianapolis Colts and NFC Easters Washington and the Giants.

One plus in the Bears favor is that the Eagles, besides those three heady wins and now a trip to Chicago, also have a game coming up Thursday back in Philadelphia against the Houston Texans.

The Bears have had 10 days of rest since shutting out the Miami Dolphins and prepare for Sundays 3:15 p.m. kickoff as perhaps the healthiest team in the NFL: zero players on a Game 11 injury report.

By contrast, the Eagles scheduling crucible has them officially without All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel, ruled out Saturday with a knee injury. Samuel leads the NFL with 7 interceptions and has caused the Bears substantial problems, with three interceptions in New Englands win over the Super Bowl-bound Bears and three solo tackles in the Eagles win last season over the Bears.

Quarterback Jay Cutler thought enough of the Samuel threat to single him out in conversation this week. But even without Samuel, the Philadelphia defense with its league-leading 26 turnovers does precisely the kinds of things that have bedeviled Cutler and the Bears offensive line, albeit less in the past three games since the return of veteran right guard Roberto Garza.

The offensive line makes us go, said tight end Greg Olsen. The last couple weeks its been evident that theyve stepped up and are doing a great job of protecting Jay so he can find guys downfield. When it gets going, its fun.

Dealing with Philadelphias defense, ranked No. 9 in yardage allowed but a surprising 19th in points allowed, has always been an adventure for the Bears. Cutler produced a decidedly pedestrian game against the Eagles last season, throwing for just 171 yards and completing less than 56 percent of his passes; he was less productive in only three 2009 games.

Theyre going to show you a lot of different things, Cutler said. Theyre going to bring some safeties. Great linebackers. Theyve got a lot of odd blitzes.

Bears chances

Whichever defense can force the opposing quarterback into turnovers (the Bears are No. 2 in the NFL with 25 takeaways) gains a massive advantage. Cutler has proven capable of poor decisions and worse throws even as the Bears have built their 7-3 record with him starting all but one of the games. The Bears had the ball with a chance for a win over the Eagles in the closing minute last season but Cutler was intercepted at midfield with 45 seconds remaining.

But Michael Vick, whose fumble last week in the win over the Giants was his first of the year (he has yet to throw an interception) has been throttled by Bears defenses anchored by middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. The Bears allowed Vicks offenses zero touchdowns in 2001 and 2005 games with the Atlanta Falcons and one in 2002. All games were Bears wins.

Urlacher was out for the year last season when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Bears 24-20 in a game where Vick got loose for one run of 34 yards.

Our defense is right at the top right now, coach Lovie Smith said. We feel like we are one of the best defenses in the league. But thats the thing about it: When you get through the season, you get a chance to prove that each week. We know that were playing one of the best offenses in the league and were anxious to see how we match up with them.

The game does have several keys, already chronicled by CSNChicago.com and CSNPhilly.com reporters.

More important than most

Lovie Smith has had only one unbeaten November, in 2005 with Kyle Orton as his quarterback. With a win over Philadelphia his Bears will finish this November with a 4-0 mark.

More important, they will log a crucial win over an NFC opponent, one that well could factor into a post-season tiebreaker scenario with the Bears.

The matchup here becomes particularly intriguing because the Eagles are No. 2 in the NFL scoring 28.4 points per game; the Bears are tied for No. 1 allowing barely half that, 14.6 points per game. The Eagles have scored fewer than 20 points in only two games this season. The Bears have allowed as many as 20 just twice (Dallas, Seattle).

Theyre definitely one of the best defenses in the league, if not the best, Vick said. I dont want to offend anybody else around the league but this group is a great group of guys who play together, play fast, play hard, and you can tell theyve jelled together and play with a tremendous amount of confidence. I see why theyve been able to have the success theyve had.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.