You’re either annoyed the Eagles played poorly, or you’re relieved they played poorly … and still won.
Such is life in the NFL, where every game seems hard-fought, every victory an ordeal and often adorned with blood and bruises.
The Eagles did win Sunday, despite their best efforts not to. The Eagles did win, 25-20, at Chicago to improve their record to 13-1. The Eagles are one win away from clinching the NFC top seed.
“It wasn’t our best game, as we know,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.
It’s been difficult to find fault with the Eagles this season. They have the NFL’s best record, they mostly dominate opponents and look pretty spiffy doing so. Their offense and defense are among the league’s best.
But for most of this game they were in an unexpected dogfight with the 3-11 Bears.
The weather at kickoff was sunny and 18 degrees with a 16-mph wind with gusts up to 20 mph. The real-feel temperature was three degrees.
- “I couldn’t feel my hands,” Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts said. “I’ve never been that cold.”
“I’ve been in Philly in January, it didn’t feel like that,” cornerback Darius Slay said.
RUN THE BALL
We’re neither a meteorologist nor an NFL offensive coordinator, but the cold and the wind seemed to cry out for the Eagles’ vaunted running game.
So, in the first quarter, the Eagles ran seven plays. They had two runs, both by Hurts.
Hurts was intercepted twice in the first half — and he came into the game with just three interceptions in 13 games. The Eagles lost the time of possession, 21:10 to 8:50.
Turnovers and time of possession were the main reasons the Eagles lost their only game, to Washington.
The Eagles moved the ball sporadically. In the last two weeks, running back Miles Sanders set career-highs in rushing. Against the Bears, his first carry came with 6:41 to play in the first half. He had three carries in the first half for 12 yards.
But what in the name of Kevin Kolb was going on?
Still, the Eagles led at the half, 10-6.
- “Give them a lot of credit for the things that they did to make it hard for us on offense,” Sirianni said. “Obviously, turnovers. That’s the big thing.”
DEFENSE STEPS UP
As unsettling as the Eagles’ offense looked, it’s the mark of a winning team that another unit had their backs.
The Eagles’ defense, the NFL leaders in sacks, racked up five more in the first half. Edge rusher Haason Reddick, who had two sacks, said the defense didn’t feel as if they had to pick up the offense. He and his mates finished with six sacks, notable since they were trying to chase down mobile Justin Fields.
It took one of the great runs in NFL history by Fields, on a second-and-27, to give the Bears a chance to score in the second quarter.
Fields evaded Reddick’s attempt at a sack, broke tackles, made cuts, avoided tacklers, danced down the sideline before stepping out of bounds at the Eagles’ 9.
The 39-yard run was followed on the next play by an untouched touchdown run by David Montgomery and the Bears went ahead, 6-3.
If you took the Eagles at their word and they weren’t looking ahead to Dallas, you had to wonder where their minds were. The problem at the present, the Bears, was troublesome enough.
Special teams, offense, defense all contributed to the touchdown that put the Eagles ahead 17-6.
On the first drive of the second half, the Eagles moved 42 yards in six plays, scoring on a 1-yard Hurts sneak. The drive was juiced by a 58-yard kickoff return by Boston Scott to the Bears’ 42.
Then the defense stopped the Bears on a three-and-out.
The reeling Bears, pushed around and looking worn down, got the break they needed from an unlikely source.
Sanders’ first fumble of the season, on a short pass, put the Bears in business at the Eagles’ 15. A 10-yard touchdown pass to Montgomery brought Chicago within 17-13.
Hurts’ third touchdown — on his patented quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line — with 4:25 to play gave the Eagles a 25-13 lead. He connected with A.J. Brown on a 68-yard beauty down the right side to put the Eagles at the Bears’ 3.
Despite the picks, Hurts’ final numbers looked impressive. Hurts threw for 315 yards on 22-of-37 passes. He gained 61 yards on the ground and ran for three touchdowns.
Brown had nine catches for a career-high 181 yards. DeVonta Smith had five catches for 126 yards.
- “You look at the special teams, the plays that they made,” Hurts said. “You look at the defense, how they showed up after the turnovers and were able to get the ball to us and give us opportunities …
- “In the end, that’s a testament to how we persevered as a team and how we believed in one another as a team. The great teams, the great players, they found a way.
- “Collectively as a group, we all came together and found a way. That’s the biggest takeaway from this game.”
In the any-given-Sunday NFL, the Chiefs needed overtime to beat 1-11-1 Houston and the Cowboys lost at 5-8 Jacksonville in overtime. Every game can be an ordeal and sometimes you don’t even win them.