Hoge: McCoy Drooling Over Chance To Face Bears’ Run Defense
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By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) — You don’t have to dig too deep into the matchup to understand why LeSean McCoy can’t wait until Sunday night.
The Eagles have the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL. The Bears have the worst rushing defense in the NFL. The Eagles are averaging 152.9 rushing yards per game. The Bears are allowing 152.4.
“I feel like I’m going to put this game on my back,” the Eagles running back said Wednesday on a conference call with Chicago reporters. “I really want to go out there and showcase what we can do offensively running the ball. I bet the guys up front, me and them together, can get this thing done.”
He’s really not going too far out on a limb there, given the reality of what the Eagles have done offensively and what the Bears have allowed defensively.
The tape never lies, and McCoy has seen it.
“It’s tough for them,” the running back said about the Bears’ two rookie linebackers. “Seeing things like that and missed tackles and guys out of line, out of place, that kind of makes a running back happy. And seeing teams gash them, automatically that light bulb lights up in your head like, ‘Wow, we can get the running game going.’”
There is optimism for the Bears, however. Both rookies, Jonathan Bostic and Khaseem Greene, played better against the Browns and the team held Cleveland to just 92 rushing yards.
“There was some improvement,” Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “We got off blocks better. We got more guys to the ball. There were several plays where we had four, five, six guys at the ball.”
But Tucker knows his defense is still not where it needs to be
“We’re not where we need to be right now. We’re going to work and get better. We have a huge challenge this week,” the defensive coordinator said.
The good news is that Lance Briggs is expected to return to the lineup against the Eagles. He practiced on a limited basis Wednesday at Halas Hall, but did see time with the first-team defense. Before Briggs got hurt against the Redskins Oct. 20, the Bears’ rushing defense ranked 12th in the league, only allowing 102 yards per game. Now it’s dead last.
“Lance Briggs is probably one of the best linebackers that I’ve faced and I’m actually saying that in an honest way. He’s one of the best,” McCoy said.
Having missed seven games, there’s a sentiment that the Eagles might try to target Briggs to see if he’s rusty. With their high-tempo offense, the veteran linebacker’s conditioning will be tested too.
“I wouldn’t test Lance too much,” Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall warned. “His history says enough.”
Even if he is rusty, a limited Lance Briggs has to be better than what the Bears have had without him, even if the rush defense has been better in recent weeks.
While there has been some improvement among the young linebackers, a lot of the credit for that improvement should go to veteran defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, who has been a difference maker in his first three games with the Bears.
“He was very active in the game,” Tucker said. “He made some plays in the run game. He did a nice job in the pass rush. He made some pressure and the pocket collapsed. That was huge. He brings great energy to the group.”
He also brings smart instincts and veteran leadership. One teammate compared Ratliff’s ability to read opposing offenses at the line of scrimmage to Brian Urlacher. There was an example of that in Sunday’s win over the Browns, when Ratliff saw something right before the snap. He quickly got out of his stance, waved his arm in the air to signal something to his teammates and then bulldozed his way into the backfield to Chris Ogbonnaya for a loss.
Those are the kind of instincts the Bears have been lacking on their defense this season, especially since Briggs got hurt. Now that he’ll likely be back, there’s a confidence among the group that it will be as strong as it has all season when the Bears arrive in Philadelphia this weekend.
When told that Adrian Peterson ran for 211 yards against the Bears three weeks ago, McCoy said, “Wow,” but didn’t want to predict how many yards he’ll pile up Sunday.
“I don’t know. I just want to go out there and put the offense on my back and my shoulders, me and all the linemen, and get this job done,” he said.
Meanwhile, stopping McCoy, will be the Bears’ No. 1 job too.
“You go in and every week you say, ‘Who do we have to neutralize this week?’,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “Make sure we minimize their ability to make a difference and then you work from there. He’s certainly the starting point.”
And if they can’t stop McCoy, he could also be the ending point to the Bears’ playoff hopes.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.