Eagle Eye: Eagles-Bears Predictions
LeSean McCoy ran for 71 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown in the Eagles' 30-24 loss to the Bears in 2011. (USA Today Images)
After an eight-carry disaster against Minnesota, LeSean McCoy pleaded this week for more handoffs and more responsibility against the Bears.
If he doesn’t get at least 20 carries, it’ll be malpractice by Chip Kelly.
The Bears are a scoring juggernaut, but they’re the NFL’s worst team at stopping the run, and it’s not even close. They’re the league’s only team that allows more than five yards per carry. Not only should McCoy be heavily involved, but this sets up well for Chris Polk and Bryce Brown (if he’s still allowed to touch the ball) to make an impact as well.
The Bears’ problem starts up front with injuries. One of their best interior linemen, tackle Henry Melton, was lost for the year in September with a torn ACL and middle linebacker D.J. Williams (chest) is also done for the year. Weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs, a seven-time Pro Bowler, has missed the past seven games with a fractured shoulder but should make his return against the Eagles.
It’s hard to imagine one guy -- even with Briggs’ talent -- can single-handedly reverse the run-stopping problems that have plagued Chicago all year and also compensate for the other injuries. Second-round pick Jonathan Bostic runs well and makes plays in space, but it remains to be seen if he can be the control center of a defense against an explosive offense in a big game with potential playoff ramifications.
The Bears are also without their best corner, Charles Tillman, who’s one of the NFL’s best playmaking defensive backs and also a good run-stopper in the back end.
Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker runs a scheme that’s comparable to the one Lovie Smith ran in Chicago, and ran very well from 2004-2012. The Bears play a lot of zone, don’t blitz very much and rely on their gap-shooting linemen to pressure quarterbacks. They have the fewest sacks in the NFL with just 26.
Defensive end Julius Peppers isn’t the threat he used to be, but he has 6.5 sacks and can still be disruptive. Shea McClellin has 3.5 sacks, but more was expected when they picked him 19th overall last year. The loss of Melton, coupled with Peppers’ mediocre season, has taken the bite away from a defense that had been very imposing over the past few years.
Corey Wooten, a 275-pound tackle who took Melton’s spot, just isn’t big enough for the position’s demand and shouldn’t cause problems for Todd Herremans. Nose tackle Stephen Paea, a 325-pounder, is an anchor up front and will likely command double teams from center Jason Kelce and left guard Evan Mathis.
If left tackle Jason Peters can handle Peppers and right tackle Lane Johnson can bounce back from an iffy effort against the Vikings to keep McClellin in check, the Eagles shouldn’t have problems running the ball to set up big plays for the passing game.
Nick Foles struggled with his accuracy against the Vikings, who also played more zone than the Eagles usually see, so it’s important that he’s sharper and more decisive when he’s protected. He held onto the ball too long a few times against Minnesota and allowed some defensive linemen to win their matchups on second efforts.
Even with Tillman out, the Eagles have to be conscious of left cornerback Tim Jennings, a Pro Bowler in 2012. He’s undersized (5-8, 185), which could hurt against Riley Cooper and Zach Ertz, but he plays with great physicality and won’t back down. Safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte are big-time disappointments. Wright is OK in the box, but Conte struggles in coverage and tackling.
Foles’ ability to look safeties off and deliver deep should be one of his biggest strengths and Kelly will try to capitalize on the middle of the field, so expect DeSean Jackson to keep lining up all over the place, including in the backfield to get isolated against a linebacker or safety.
This is the poorest Bears defense in several years, so look for the Eagles to have another big game offensively. They had 14 takeaways in their first four games, but just 11 in their past 10, so the Eagles can do plenty of damage if they’re not sloppy with ball security.
To find out how the Eagles' offense matches up with the Bears' defense, click here.