The Chicago Bears will ride a two-game winning streak into Lincoln Financial Field this week when they square off against the unpredictable Philadelphia Eagles.
As it stands, both teams have had interesting 2011 campaigns that have featured everything ranging from bitter disappointment at the beginning of the year to genuine optimism over the last few weeks. Now, the Bears and Eagles are primed to capture a third consecutive victory – at the other’s expense, of course.
Even though the Bears didn’t add six former Pro Bowlers to their roster during the offseason a la the Eagles, there was still a certain segment of the NFL-watching world that expected a bit more from them this year. Instead, all they’ve gotten is Matt Forte drama, more offensive line embarrassments and a healthy dose of Jay Cutler-related vitriol.
All of that has changed over the last two weeks, though. Coming off their bye, Chicago outscored the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers 63-28. Despite the fact that they haven’t entirely been able to bury the negative headlines, the Bears players have done something more important – handled business anyway.
Traditionally the Bears have been very successful when it comes to putting the clamps on Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. As a starter, the much-maligned Philly passer has thrown for 187 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions en route to a 0-3 mark. In five total games versus Chicago, Vick has been sacked 15 times.
Clearly the defense will need to build on past success in order to ensure more success in the future.
"It's real difficult for us because he creates a lot of time for the (receivers) to get open with his legs," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "But we believe in our pass rush and our rush is going to get to him and make it easy for us in the back seven. So we've just got to stay in cover and believe in our pass rush."
Unfortunately, Vick isn’t the only potent offensive weapon on the Philadelphia roster. Running back LaSean McCoy has averaged a league-high 107.7 yards per game and scored at least one touchdown in every single outing. Whether or not he can accomplish those feats against a Chicago defense that limited the Vikings and Bucs to a total of 83 rushing yards over the past two weeks is anyone’s guess; however, he has rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown in two total showings versus Chicago in the past.
Then again, the Bears have their own highly prolific running back. Forte currently leads the league with 1,091 yards from scrimmage, and makes up over 40 percent of the team’s offensive yardage output. Needless to say, he’s feeling the burn.
"The running back position is the most physically demanding on the field," Forte said Tuesday, per the Chicago Sun-Times. "Everyone acknowledges that. So to continue to give me the touches I’ve had since my rookie year but not award me a long-term contract sends the message that you’re OK grinding me into a pulp.”
Forte and the Bears will have to put those internal issues to the side for the time being and focus on the task at hand – taking down a team that’s on a roll and has everything to play for.
Can Chicago win its third straight outing and make a run towards the crowded top of the NFC North? Or will it be the Eagles who ultimately emerge victorious, giving themselves new life in the volatile NFC East?
We’ll find out soon enough.