Dec 23, 2013, 12:08 AM EDT
The Chicago Bears had everything to play for with a division title on the line. The Philadelphia Eagles had the bare minimum to gain—improved seeding in the playoffs, if they get in. Guess which team showed up?
The Eagles blew the doors off the visiting Bears 54-11 at Lincoln Financial Field in front of a national TV audience. Nick Foles was flawless. LeSean McCoy paced the running game to 289 yards. The defense and special teams shut down numerous Pro Bowl players. It was a complete effort in every phase, and the outcome was never in question.
Long before the final gun sounded, 70,000 Birds fans echoed the message the home team had just sent: bring on the Dallas Cowboys.
Throughout the second half, an energized South Philly crowd could be heard chanting, “We want Dallas,” as the Eagles continued pouring it on, using the Bears like a punching bag with a blue star on it. The Eagles head to Cowboys Stadium for their long-awaited Week 17 clash to decide the NFC East championship, just as it had been foretold way back at the beginning of September.
Frankly, the Cowboys should be scared after what they saw. Dallas is ranked dead last in total defense, 30th versus the pass, 27th against the run and 25th in points allowed. They barely knocked off the 3-12 Washington franchise earlier on Sunday, otherwise Philadelphia would’ve clinched the division with their decisive victory.
[Chip Kelly Video: "We're from Philadelphia and we fight."]
Nick Foles hit on 21 of 25 attempts (84.0%) for 230 yards (9.2 AVG) and two touchdowns, good for a 131.7 passer rating. Three of his four incompletions were throwaways, and the two sacks he took only lost five yards.
LeSean McCoy likely solidified himself as the NFL’s leading rusher for the year. He racked up 133 yards on 18 carries (7.4 AVG) with two touchdowns, and added six receptions for 29 yards. Bryce Brown also went over the 100-yard mark thanks to a 65-yard scamper for six, and Chris Polk punched one in as well to give all three backs scores.
Brent Celek and Riley Cooper caught touchdown passes from Foles.
Meanwhile, the Birds’ defense recovered in a big way after allowing the Minnesota Vikings to post 48 points a week ago. Philadelphia was able to get tremendous pressure on Bears signal-caller Jay Cutler from the jump. Outside linebacker Trent Cole recorded three sacks, giving him eight in the last seven games, while Mychal Kendricks added two from his spot on the interior.
That helped the secondary immensely against perhaps the best wide receiving tandem in football. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were held to a combined 10 receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown, as Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher’s physical style of coverage really worked well against those big targets.
Brandon Boykin capped off the secondary’s big day with a 54-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter to finally end Cutler’s night.
Of course, some of the Bears issues were self-inflicted. For one thing, Matt Forte only got nine carries for 29 yards, in part because Chicago was trailing almost immediately. A back of Forte’s caliber still needs the ball more, although the run defense really came to play. Cedric Thornton tackled Forte for a safety in the third quarter and made a handful of big plays in the backfield.
Chicago’s special teams didn’t do them any favors, either. Adam Podlesh shanked a punt and Devin Hester fumbled a kick return—stripped by Fletcher, recovered by Williams filling on an injury-plagued kick coverage unit—to setup the Birds with great field position on their first two scoring drives.
Regardless, the Bears didn’t appear to have any answers for the Eagles this week. The question is will the Cowboys have better luck?
It’s worth pointing out Dallas did shut down the Philly’s bid for first place once before this season. It was the worst day of Foles’ career, as he struggled to complete 37 percent of his passes in a baffling performance, then exited with a concussion. Matt Barkley threw three interceptions in relief, as the Birds were held out of the end zone in the 17-3 loss.
Times have changed though. Foles still has occasional bouts of inconsistency, but by and large has developed into a steady leader for the offense.
With the win, the Eagles improved to 9-6, guaranteeing a winning season in Chip Kelly’s first year on the sidelines. The fun is just getting started though. It’s December, Week 17, and we want Dallas.
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