The man has been missed! Lance Briggs on the field was, in my opinion, having an outstanding season. He was setting a new line of scrimmage with his patented tackles for loss, squeezing gaps, and making plays. He was also tracking the ball in coverage well enough to be a threat. If Briggs is not a finely tuned engine right now, so be it. Conditioning and strength aside, his mind and experience is more important for this defense against that Eagles offense. Whatever he is capable of giving, I’ll take it. Briggs is most happy when he’s playing football. Sundays have always been his escape. He always shows up. Nothing has been simple or easy about this season for the Bears defense, but Briggs, coupled with the addition of Jeremiah Ratliff at defensive tackle, should plug some leaks. A guy like Jon Bostic should benefit from playing next to Briggs as well. The Eagles have two bolts of lightning in LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, and if they limit the zaps and make a few stops, the scoreboard might reflect it.
Eleven Eagles are averaging double digits in terms of yards per catch this season. That’s extraordinary volume for any offense, and I don’t see a team in the league throwing up that kind of math and variety. Not even the high-scoring Broncos. Seven of those 11 have caught a touchdown pass. The headline is Chip Kelly’s offense is capable of hitting you anywhere and from anyone. It’s a huge challenge for the Bears defense to stay disciplined and stay ready for just about anything. All this is done from just a handful or runs and passes run out of various alignments, but they are good at it.
Much like the Eagles offense, their defense hits you from just about everywhere and any time. Twelve different players have accumulated a total of 32 sacks. They blitz on third down, and they do a great job of disguising those blitzes. Eighteen different defenders have pass break-ups, including 21 from the defensive line and outside linebackers. Connor Barwin has 10 of his own. Eight different Eagles have 16 interceptions. The point here is every defender is a possible game-changer on Sunday. The Bears must be assignment-sure, must protect the ball, and must continue to excel on third down like they have in the last two wins.
4th and Short
Martellus Bennett had the quote of the day when pushed to frame what could be a “meaningless” matchup with the Eagles Sunday night. Of course, what happens earlier in the day could change what the game means for the playoffs or for week 17, but said Bennett: “There are no irrelevant games.” Exactly right. The Bears are fortunate to have weathered some storms to be in a position to win the division, but they have much to work on and improve. The defense needs every rep it can find to gel and get the chemistry right. Jay Cutler needs to continue to find his rhythm and tempo. Bottom line is every snap matters. The idea is to get hot in December and stay hot. A third straight win headed into the season finale — meaningful or not on paper — is exactly the direction this team needs to go. Nothing should be taken for granted, and I don’t think it will.