By Jeff Joniak–
(CBS) The Bears (3-7) are on the road to face the Eagles (9-1) on Sunday at noon. Here are my keys to the game.
Offense: Stay patient
After rushing for 221 yards in the loss to the Lions, the Bears moved to fifth in the league in rushing. They’re hoping for similar production against the Eagles, the league’s No. rushing defense. If the Bears’ ground game isn’t churning out big gains, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains must remain patient and committed to Jordan Howard and the offensive line. Scoring points will be a chore. The Eagles give up fewer than 19.0 points per game and make teams earn every yard. Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s seventh start will be his toughest, as the Eagles are relentless attackers.
Defense: Brace for the best
A year ago in Chicago, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz led his team to a 15-point win in his second career start. Wentz is developing into one of the elite passers in the NFL, with a league-best 25 touchdown passes while directing the highest-scoring offense. The Bears defense will also have its hands full with an Eagles rushing attack that ranks second in the league. Tackling bruiser backs LaGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi will be important. They both gain considerable yards after contact. Wentz will test replacements for injured starting Bears linebackers Danny Trevathan and Leonard Floyd, and he will do it by spreading the ball around. The Eagles have 11 players who have scored an offensive touchdown, and five running backs have carried the ball.
Special teams: Scoring points
Beating the Eagles requires a healthy point total, as Philadelphia is winning on average by more than 15 points. The only time the Eagles scored fewer than 26 points was in a 27-20 loss to the Chiefs in Week 2. They’ve scored 30 or more points six times. This is why the Bears have to win on special teams. The kicking game must produce points. The pressure is on newcomer Cairo Santos to be more accurate than Connor Barth. Field position edges will give the offense shorter fields and better chances to score. It’s a critical component.
An upset win by Chicago at Philadelphia would be the talk of Week 12 in the league. The Bears have to believe it can happen, and the longer they hang around, the more they will believe. The Bears have earned three upset wins over potential playoff teams in the Steelers, Ravens and Panthers. This Eagles team is certainly a different breed, but taking down the NFL’s best team would go a long way for the Bears claiming progress and development.
In 2013, Chicago was in position to clinch a playoff berth in a contest at Philadelphia in Week 16 but was destroyed 51-14. Since the start of that night, the Bears are 17-43 and have been outscored by 400 total points. Put simply, the direction of the franchise turned on that Sunday night. Now, the Bears are hoping to lay the foundation for turning the franchise in the other direction with an upset win.
Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.