Four Downs: Keys to beating the Eagles (11/07/11)

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The Bears have to keep Vick in the pocket or force him to move to his right.
The Bears have to keep Vick in the pocket or force him to move right.

A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Philadelphia Eagles.

1. Force Michael Vick to his right

Despite arguments by Vick fans to the contrary, the dog killer is a great athlete who happens to play quarterback, not a great quarterback with athleticism. He can still be flustered and forced into making mistakes, and if not for his athleticism to escape trouble, he’d be floundering as a quarterback. Stopping Vick comes down to keeping him in the pocket or, if necessary, forcing him to his right, where he has difficulty throwing across his body as a left-handed quarterback. The Bears had success against Vick last year in large part because when Julius Peppers lined up at right end, Vick was unable to move to that side of the field — the left — without running into him.

2. Focus on containing LeSean McCoy first, the passing game second

McCoy is one of the top young backs in the league and he currently is ranked second in the NFL with 754 rushing yards. He’s played one less game than league-leader Adrian Peterson, which means his 107.7 yards-per-game average is actually tops in the league. McCoy has the ability to break off big runs and is ranked third in the league with eight carries of 20-plus yards. He also ranks second with eight rushing touchdowns. Eagles coach Andy Reid has never been a big fan of running the football, but with a weapon like McCoy at his disposal, the Eagles have been doing that effectively. The Bears defense will need the same effort they had two games ago against Peterson and the Vikings if they hope to contain McCoy.

3. Get rid of the ball quickly to neutralize the Eagles’ pass rush

By now you’ve probably heard of the “wide-9” alignment that the Eagles defense runs, which is designed to give the defensive ends a better angle at the quarterback and make it more difficult on the offensive tackles to step out and block them. The Eagles have cut down on using it lately because with the ends lining up so far outside, the defensive line is vulnerable against the run with huge gaps between the linemen. We could see them try it at some point because the Bears offensive tackles are young and have had their struggles, but if Matt Forte carves up the defense, they’ll resort to a more standard, 4-3 approach. The Eagles rank sixth in the league with 22 sacks and have a formidable front four so the Bears can do Jay Cutler a favor by letting him get rid of the ball quickly to receivers running short patterns.

4. Run the football to take the crowd out and control the tempo

The Bears have yet to win a road game in an opponent’s stadium this year, with last Sunday’s victory against the Buccaneers coming at a neutral location. Against the Saints and Lions, the offensive line had serious problems hearing the snap count due to crowd noise. The game will be played outdoors where the crowd noise won’t be as confined, but the line could still have troubles hearing the cadence if the fans get involved early. An effective run game is the surest way to drain the energy and emotion from the stadium and, as previously mentioned, will help take the Eagles out of the wide-9 formation and take the heat off Cutler. The longer the Bears keep Vick and the Eagles’ strong offense off the field while controlling the tempo, the better chance they have a securing an important road victory within the conference.

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