Joniak: Keys To The Game
By Jeff Joniak–
Offense: Control the Clock
Like the Bears did in Miami, it is wise at this point to control the clock in order to quiet down the high scoring Eagles offense. It’s asking a lot to hold the ball for 38-minutes, but long drives and continued success on third down will keep the chains moving and keep the defense on the sidelines. The Eagles are averaging over 32-minutes of possession time so far this season. The Eagles will blitz and pressure and are among the league leaders in takeaways. 36-year old Sean McDermott is a disciple of the late Jim Johnson and will bring zone pressure. Former Bears head coach Dick Jauron is the Eagles defensive backs coach and he’s got a pair of pillars on the back end in strong safety Quintin Mikell and cornerback Assante Samuel.
Defense: Deepest of the Deep
There are four game-breakers on the Eagles. Michael Vick is faster than any quarterback in the NFL. DeSean Jackson was the NFC Pro Bowl kick returner last year when he averaged 15 yards plus, on his returns and another 18.7 on his receptions. This year, Jackson is at it again averaging 19.8 on his catches. Jeremy Maclin is also a touchdown waiting to happen and is more of a vertical threat averaging 15.0 yards and owns a team high seven touchdowns. Playing true to their defensive fundamentals, the Bears safeties have to play deeper than they have all season to prevent the big play. LeSean McCoy at running back is also a threat to score either by land or by air. Between McCoy and Vick, the Eagles have scored 11 rushing touchdowns. Jackson has run for a 12th.
Special Teams: Prepare for a physical affair
This will be a terrific matchup between special teams coaches Dave Toub of the Bears and Bobby April in his first year with the Eagles. Both teams have terrific kicking games led by Robbie Gould and Brad Maynard and David Akers and Sav Rocca. The respective coverage units are physical led by Cory Graham of the Bears with a team high 15 solo tackles. Devin Hester will have his hands full dealing with Rocca’s rugby style punts, but the Eagles are allowing over 11 yards on punt returns. Soldier Field should again be wound up by Hester’s appearance on kickoff returns. He feeds off the energy created by the fan base.
The Bears have been asked by coordinator Rod Marinelli to play with toughness and arrive with an attitude at the ball. They are tackling well and hitting harder than at any point in the season. Against the Eagles, they have to match and then surpass the intensity of the visiting Eagles. Re-establish home field is critical in the final six weeks and hopefully in the playoffs. Losses to Washington and Seattle still leave a bad taste, but a win over the Vikings two weeks ago got the ball rolling in the right direction. It should be one of the best games of the year in the NFC…a real physical matchup between two teams pulling more than a few surprises in 2010.