Bears, Eagles know each other well
The two teams will meet for the fifth straight year and ninth time in 12 seasons when Chicago (4-3) visits Philadelphia (3-4) tonight (7:30 p.m., ESPN).
“We’ve had an opportunity to play them quite a few times, so they know us, we know them, and it should lead for an exciting, good football game,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “Every time we play each other, each of us adds a new little wrinkle. I’m sure they feel the same way. They have a pretty good grasp on what we do, and likewise with us.”
Familiarity has helped the Bears recently. Chicago has won three of the last four meetings after losing five straight to Philadelphia between 1999-2004.
The Bears are among the few teams who’ve had success stopping Michael Vick. He’s 0-3 as a starter against them with 807 yards passing, three touchdowns and three interceptions in five career games. He’s run for 187 yards and been sacked 10 times.
“They play a nice, tight, sound, disciplined scheme, and it’s something that they’ve always been good at,” Vick said. “And it’s a ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality and they find ways to get it done, and in the past that’s happened. So hopefully, I’m definitely confident this time I’ll give (us) the best chance to win the football game. And you know it’s going to be tough, but we have to put forth our best effort.”
Vick figures to have Julius Peppers chasing him around all game. If he can buy enough time with his legs to throw, he’ll present a tough challenge for a secondary that includes rookie safety Chris Conte.
The Bears sacked Vick four times in a 31-26 win over the Eagles at Soldier Field last November. They also snapped his streak of 238 passes without an interception.
“He’s a great player. I think one thing you have to do is be able to match them a little bit athletic-ability wise, and we do,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We want 11 athletes on the field.”
You’re going to miss him from time to time. You just need other players there. Our style of defense: gang tackle, everybody get to the ball. You need that for a player like that. We’re just going to play our normal defensive game that we believe in. We’re not going to change philosophies or anything like that this week.”
Jay Cutler tied a career-high with four touchdown passes in last year’s win against Philadelphia. Cutler will be facing a new-look defense this time around.
The Eagles have added cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie along with defensive end Jason Babin and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins. They also have a new defensive coordinator, Juan Castillo, and a different scheme.
“Personnel is a little different, but they’re still doing a lot of things they’ve done in the past,” Cutler said. “We started off hot (in last year’s game). We passed the ball well. We ran the ball well. We converted on third down. Whenever we got in the red zone, we were scoring touchdowns and not kicking for field goals.”
The Bears are third in the NFC North behind Green Bay (7-0) and Detroit (6-2). They are coming off a bye and have won two straight games, including a 24-18 victory over Tampa Bay in London on Oct. 16.
The Eagles are in a three-way tie for second in the NFC East behind the New York Giants (5-2). They’ve won two in a row following a 1-4 start, and are coming off a 34-7 rout of Dallas.
“We know who we’re playing. We’re playing a good football team,” Smith said. “We know what their record says, but we’re preparing for that team we saw Sunday night that dominated a good Dallas Cowboys team. We do have a history with them.”
The game features two of the top running backs in the NFL. Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy is second in the league in yards rushing (754) and first in yards rushing per game (107.7). Chicago’s Matt Forte is sixth in yards rushing (672) and first in yards from scrimmage (1,091).
Both defenses know they have a tough task.
“He’s a powerful runner and he’s got some nice wiggle to him,” Babin said of Forte. “So we really need to pursue the ball because there’s going to be missed tackles. He’s going to make some guys miss, but as long as we’re all running and hunting, we’ll be there to take care of each other and have each other’s backs.”
McCoy has added another dimension to an offense that includes big-time playmakers in Vick and wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. With McCoy leading the way, the usually pass-happy Eagles have the No. 1 rushing attack in the league. They’re averaging 179.9 yards per game on the ground.
“You don’t normally say ‘Philadelphia Eagles’ and ‘running team,’ but that is what has opened up a lot of things for them offensively, to be able to put up those type of points and numbers,” Smith said.
The Eagles will honor former coach Buddy Ryan at halftime. Ryan, who is battling cancer, will be joined by several former players, including defensive end Clyde Simmons, linebacker Seth Joyner and tight end Keith Jackson.
Ryan was the defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl champion Bears in 1985. He left Chicago to become Philadelphia’s coach after that season, and turned a franchise that had grown accustomed to losing into a winner.
Ryan led the Eagles to the playoffs three straight years from 1988-90, and remains one of the most beloved sports figures in a blue-collar city that adored his bombastic personality.