Reporting Josh Liss
CHICAGO (CBS) – It was a big night for Earl Bennett and the Bears’ offense as they beat the Eagles 31-26. All the talk during the week was about whether or not the Bears’ defense could stop the explosive Eagles’ offense.
However, once the game finally arrived it was the Bears’ offense that was explosive, and it was the Eagles’ defense that struggled to limit the big plays.
The Bears’ defense did their job as well. Lovie Smith said earlier in the week that they wouldn’t commit a spy for Michael Vick or alter their defense too much, and that was the case today. We saw the same looks that we usually do from the Bears and the defensive line was able to get pressure and disrupt the Eagles’ offense.
Still doubting the Chicago Bears?
Jay Cutler tied a career high with four touchdown passes and the Chicago Bears beat Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles 31-26 to take sole possession of the NFC North lead on Sunday.
The win was their fourth straight and it put them a game ahead of Green Bay in the division. It also came against one of the top teams in the NFC.
The Eagles (7-4) had won three straight, but were unable to break off big plays against one of the league’s stingiest defenses and fell into a tie with the New York Giants for the NFC East lead.
Vick threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns. But he also threw his first interception in four years when he got picked off by Chris Harris in the end zone late in the first half, stopping a potential go-ahead scoring drive.
Julius Peppers had a sack for Chicago (8-3) after collecting three the previous week, and the Bears got that signature win after beating struggling teams like Buffalo, Minnesota and the injury-ravaged Dolphins.
Matt Forte ran for 117 yards – the most by anyone against Philadelphia this season. That included a 61-yarder to set up the first touchdown. And when he wasn’t running by the Eagles, Cutler was picking them apart.
He had a 146.2 rating for the game, going 14 of 21 for 247 yards without an interception. Devin Hester caught three passes for 86 yards, and Earl Bennett added two touchdown catches.
It didn’t hurt that the Eagles were missing their top two cornerbacks after Pro Bowler Asante Samuel stayed home with a knee injury and Ellis Hobbs went on injured reserve during the week with a neck injury. Defensive end Juqua Parker also sat out with a hip flexor strain, but they still had a rejuvenated MVP candidate behind center.
Even so, the Eagles fell to 5-1 in games Vick has started and finished. He hit Brent Celek with a 30-yard TD that made it 31-26 with 1:54 left, but Johnny Knox recovered the onside kick, preserving the win.
The Bears led 14-3 through the first quarter, scoring two quick touchdowns after the Eagles’ David Akers booted a 45-yard field goal about six minutes into the game.
Chicago immediately responded, with Forte setting up the first TD by breaking through the line and up the left side for that 61-yarder before getting pushed out of bounds. Two plays later, Cutler zipped a 10-yard pass through three defenders to Bennett in the end zone, giving Chicago a 7-3 lead.
On the second TD, Cutler connected with Hester on a 39-yard screen and then found a wide-open Knox for a 20-yard scoring pass after cornerback Joselio Hanson slipped to make it 14-3.
The Eagles pulled within one in the second, getting a 10-yard TD catch by Jeremy Maclin in the opening minutes and a 36-yard field goal from Akers after Peppers sacked Vick for a 16-yard loss. But one big interception stopped the momentum and set up a late TD by Chicago that made it 21-13.
Vick, who spent 1 1/2 years in prison for running an illegal dogfighting ring, had gone 238 passes without an interception after throwing one for Atlanta against Carolina on Dec. 24, 2006.
That streak came to an end on his 21st attempt of the game, and 212th of the season.
With the Eagles at the Chicago 4 and trailing by one, Harris picked off a pass in the end zone that teammate Tommie Harris tipped and ran it back to the 37, and six plays later, Cutler hit Bennett with a 6-yard TD that pushed the Bears’ lead to 21-13 with 38 seconds left in the half.
A leaping Greg Olsen made it a 15-point game when he hauled in a 9-yarder in the back of the end zone, and Robbie Gould capped a 17-play drive that ate up 10:05 with a 23-yard field goal late in the third, making it 31-13.
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