By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) The Bears (0-1) host the Eagles (1-0) on Monday night. Here are my keys to the game.
Offense: Snap-to-snap production
Improvement on second down and efficiency on third down are two keys for the Bears offense in Week 2. The Bears had 12 possessions in against the Texans in their opener, which was the league average for Week 1. However, Chicago had no 10-play drives and tied for the second-fewest snaps in the league with 54. The Eagles also had 12 possessions in their Week 1 win over the Browns but ran 73 plays, possessing the ball for a league-best 39:20. Possessing the ball allows Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to get his run game revved up.
Defense: Third-down improvement
This is an easy one to point out but not so easy to fix if the rush and coverage don’t marry. The Bears gave up the most third-down conversions in the league last week (12) on a league-high 20 attempts. The Bears have to get off the field and generate a persistent and productive pass rush on third down. Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz is making his first appearance on the road. The Bears defense has to make him play like a rookie on the road. Wentz is poised and the evidence was in his eight completions in eight attempts against the Browns’ blitz last week.
Special teams: Royal vs. Sproles
So much can turn a game on fourth down, and this week two veteran punt returners figure into the outcome. Eddie Royal of the Bears had a nice 31-yard gallop in Houston among his four returns, while Darren Sproles of the Eagles had a league-best 40-yard return against the Browns among his four opportunities. On kick returns, Bears receiver Deonte Thompson had five opportunities, and only three earned more than 20 yards. Field position is extremely important right now for the Bears offense. Inside-the-20 starts are not what this group needs right now. They started four of their 12 drives inside their own 20 in the opener. Philadelphia had none against Cleveland.
Intangibles: This is our house
The Bears losing 13 of their last 16 at home is a disturbing trend that must be halted now. The theme all week has centered on preventing the Eagles or any other team from setting up shop and owning the place. Coaches have harped on it. Players have talked about it. Fans are mumbling about it. It’s Monday night. There’s a captive audience. The fans will be energized. Now it’s the players’ job to give them something significant to cheer for four quarters. Make this house a home once again.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.