Joniak’s Keys To The Game: Bears Vs. Eagles
By Jeff Joniak-
Offense: Pile Up The Points
Most coaches enter games with some idea of how many points their team might need to score to win, based on multiple factors including how equipped their defense is to stop the other guys. A grand total of 713 “offensive” points have been scored by the Bears and Eagles through 14 games.
The Bears have scored an additional 49 points off Devin Hester’s punt return touchdown and six defensive touchdowns. The Eagles have another seven off their only defensive score. In fact, the Bears are second in the NFL in scoring and the only team outside of Denver over 400 total points.
It would be wise to “never ease off the gas”. I’m certain Marc Trestman and Chip Kelly share the same opinion. Neither team will feel comfortable with a lead. This is not the game for three and outs, poor third down execution, poor red zone touchdown efficiency, or turnovers. The Eagles have scored their points quickly with the lowest clock time in the league on average just shy of 26-minutes.
Defense: Prepare For The Quick Strike
Thirteen times this season the Eagles have scored touchdowns in less than four plays. They score faster than any team in the league. Their average “drive” time is 2:24, well above the league average of 3:27.
The Eagles are also the only team in the league scoring in less than seven plays per drive. The Bears actually have two more scoring drives than the Eagles; they just eat up more time to do it. Stats, LLC computes five minute drives to help determine a team’s ball control efficiency. The Eagles have only six, five-minute drives this season, scoring only one touchdown in 177 possessions. Of course, that’s rock bottom in the league.
The Bears and Eagles are two of the most explosive teams in the league; they just go about it a bit differently. Interestingly, the Eagles are 31st in the league in red-zone touchdown efficiency at 45.8%. Outside the red zone, no NFL team scores more than the Eagles with 20 touchdowns and 152 points. Chip Kelly runs a lot of five receiver sets, a lot of screen passes, the read option, and a diverse run game. He gives the Bears a lot to prepare for.
Special Teams: Punt Coverage Blanket
For years the Bears punt coverage unit has been outstanding. In fact, since 2004, the Bears still lead the league allowing 6.9 yards per return. Their kick coverage ranks 8th over that same period. Yards and returns are hard to come by against the Bears and they have to keep it that way against the Eagles.
Speedy receiver DeSean Jackson is back to returning punts and while he’s had only 11 returns for a total of 50 yards, he had a touchdown called back against Arizona this season. In his first three seasons, Jackson returned four punts for a touchdown on 99 total returns with an average of 11.2 yards. The Eagles coverage units have been tagged for touchdowns on kickoff returns by Trindon Holliday of Denver and Jeremy Ross of Detroit, who also returned a punt for a touchdown in that snow game in Philadelphia.
The Bears are tied with the Falcons and Packers in giving up the fewest return touchdowns in the NFL since 2004 with just 4.
Intangibles: On Your Mark, Get Set, Go
Playoff football arrived two weeks ago for the Bears, but the race is only just begun. We are going to learn a lot more about this team as it prepares for the season’s defining moments.
From the first day the Bears came together as a team they were told to “win the day”, to play with discipline, with accountability to the man next to them, to play smart. That mantra will continue to be the theme for Sunday; the road to the playoffs is about taking it one step at a time, never looking beyond the task at hand, down in, down out. Nothing changes now that the Bears control their own fate. They will be challenged by a raucous crowd, a unique offensive scheme, and a defense that likes to blitz. The Bears will try to win each snap to win the day.