Monday, November 7, 2011

Bears clip the Eagles - A running diary

It’s the Bears! The Eagles! On Monday Night Football!

The Bears came into tonight’s game needing a win to keep pace with Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North and in the NFC wildcard races. I don’t know if we can call this a must-win for the Bears, but it definitely would come in handy, and if the Eagles can go back to their bad-Philly mode that saw them lose four straight earlier this year, that would help.

So grab a seat and a cold drink, and check out this running diary of tonight’s game (all times are Central Time):

  • 7:32 p.m.: ESPN analyst Jon Gruden says Michael Vick can beat you with his preparation since he can audible more now. Ron Jaworski says the Bears’ offensive line has shaped up somewhat, with QB Jay Cutler getting sacked only three times in the last two games. Sounds good.
  • 7:35 p.m.: ESPN’s Page 2 already taking their shots on Twitter: Eagles sack Jay Cutler. Opening kickoff to follow. Hmmm…
  • 7:42 p.m.: Matt Forte gets 25 yards on a carry. Bears, pay the man!
  • 7:43 p.m.: Wish I could say the same about WR Roy Williams, who drops a pass that was admittedly a little behind him.
  • 7:46 p.m.: notes Forte has 45 yards on first three carries. Make that 54 yards on first four carries. Again, pay the man.
  • 7:51 p.m.: TE Matt Spaeth catches the 9-yard pass from Cutler for the touchdown! Man, the Bears’ offense looked, including the offensive line.
  • 7:55 p.m.: Eagles get to start at own 40-yard line after Robbie Gould's kick goes out of bounds. Not a good start for the Bears' defense. 
  • 7:59 p.m.: What do you know? The Bears hold Michael Vick and company and the Eagles gotta punt. 
  • 8:04 p.m.: The Bears are starting to get stupid again, getting called for a 12 men on the field penalty. They need to keep their heads on straight on third and seven. 
  • 8:05 p.m. Somehow, the Bears' offense redeems itself. Cutler is given plenty of time to look for a receiver in the pocket, and eventually hits Roy Williams for 14 yards and a first down. More importantly, they're getting out of that hole they started in after Devin Hester took a fair catch on the punt at his own 12-yard line. 
  • 8:06 p.m.: Harry Caray's Ghost (@GhostHarryCaray) on the 12 men on the field penalty the Bears got: "It's hard to count to 11." 
  • 8:11 p.m.: Interesting note from ESPN's Page 2 on Twitter: Bears FB Tyler Clutts is a great story, rising to the NFL from lower levels like Canada, Arena League and the Cleveland Browns. 
  • 8:13 p.m. Larry Mayer at makes an interesting observation that the Bears have Cutler rolling to his right early and often. My question is whether the Eagles might figure that out eventually and do something about it. 
  • 8:15 p.m.: The hits keep on coming: Chicago Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom on Twitter: "When the Bears converted four straight third downs to start the game, I thought they were going to send the ball to Canton." 
  • 8:16 p.m.: One quarter in the books, and the Bears have a 7-0 lead. Somehow, the offense has looked pretty darn good, and the defense has held up well against Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy, keeping them off the scoreboard. Can they keep it up? 
  • 8:19 p.m.: ESPN says Eagles CB Asante Samuel could be out of the game, as he has gone back to the locker room with an unspecified injury. Should help the Bears, but not the way you'd ideally want to win this one.  
  • 8:21 p.m.: Bears S Major Wright gets hit with a 17-yard pass interference penalty, giving the Eagles a first down. The good news, though, is Vick is continuing to get pounded by the Bears' pass rush.
  • 8:24 p.m.: More on Vick taking punishment from the Bears and other defenses: MNF crew (via Rachel Nichols on Twitter) notes Vick takes defensive contact 1 out of every 3 times he drops back. 2nd-most in the league. He's bound to feel it eventually.
  • 8:26 p.m. Major Wright makes up for the pass interference penalty and picks off Vick, running it back 36 yards from the Bears 12-yard line. That's what the Bears needed: A good, timely stop.
  • 8:30 p.m.: More stupid penalties: WR Earl Bennett gets the first down after catching a 10-yard pass from Cutler, but he got open because he pushed off on the defender. But he redeems himself on the next play and gets the first down anyway. The Bears are showing a little something different tonight, doing something stupid and then redeeming themselves with a good play.
  • 8:34 p.m.: Robbie Gould helps the Bears (and my fantasy team) with a 51-yard field goal, giving the Bears a 10-0 lead.
  • 8:40 p.m.: Bears DE Julius Peppers, who has been quiet so far, hurts his left knee again. He's been tough since he hurt it against Detroit, but he hurts it again helping stop an Eagles running play.
  • 8:45 p.m.: The Eagles are starting to turn it on, with Vick completing a 30-yard pass to Jeremy Laclin for a first down into Bears territory and then another 10-yard completion.
  • 8:47 p.m.: Julius Peppers comes back from his injury apparently okay as he gets to Vick and sacks him. Good move on his part, with the Eagles discounting him and not blocking him.
  • 8:48 p.m.: Eagles get on the board with a 47-yard field goal from K Alex Henery. Bears' lead drops to 10-3 with a little over two minutes left in the first half. The Bears are still looking pretty good against what is supposed to be a great Eagles team.
  • 8:52 p.m.: Cutler airs it out to Devin Hester, but it is broken up by Asante Samuel. Samuel, by the way, is playing with what is being called a "groin laceration." Can you say ouch?
  • 8:53 p.m.: So much for the good play. Cutler, on third and 10, throw to Matt Forte, who catches it and then fumbles it away, with Eagles LB Brian Rolle returning it for a touchdown. The play is under review, however, since we have passed the two-minute. Michael C. Wright of notes on Twitter that this is his first fumble this year.
  • 8:57 p.m.: The play stands. ESPN notes this is Forte's first fumble since October 2010 and in 347 touches. The game is now tied 10-10.
  • 9:03 p.m.: Not getting better. Cutler WAY overthrows Forte on third and five as the Bears give it right back.
  • 9:04 p.m.: Scratch that. Eagles KR Jeremy Maclin fumbles the ball after Corey Graham strips it from him and Sam Herd recovers at the Eagles 9-yard line. First down Bears!
  • 9:07 p.m. Cutler looks horrible on this drive, way overthrowing Devin Hester (remember, he's only 5-foot-11). But Cutler draws a roughing the passer penalty, keeping the drive alive. Marion Barber makes it count with the 4-yard touchdown run through traffic! Bears up 17-10.
  • 9:14 p.m.: Halftime is here and the Bears are up 17-10 going into the locker room. The Bears are helped by Jay Cutler playing it smooth with 10 of 20 passing for 102 yards and one touchdown, two turnovers by the Eagles, and a potential big play avoided by Jeremy Maclin dropping a good Michael Vick pass near midfield with about 15 seconds left. The Bears will still need to step things up in the second half to get the win and prove me wrong.
  • 9:28 p.m.: With the start of the second half, ESPN's Suzy Kolber says Lovie Smith says he has a plan for keeping Vick in check. We shall see, though so far, so good.
  • 9:35 p.m.: The Eagles drive down to the Bears 20-yard line, but Lance Briggs stops them cold on third down. Fourth and inches for the Eagles, and they're going for it.
  • 9:36 p.m.: LeSean McCoy gets the first down and keeps the Eagles' drive alive. Vick exploiting the weaknesses in the Bears' defense.
  • 9:40 p.m.: RB Ronnie Brown ties it up with a short touchdown run. The Bears are having difficulty putting this one away, to say the least. Score tied 17-17 with 8:18 left in the third quarter.
  • 9:43 p.m.: Michael C. Wright of notes on Twitter: "15 plays, 80 yards, 6:42. That's a drive, man." Yes, it is. Cutler and company will need to keep the ball for at least five minutes to give the defense a breather. Otherwise, they could be too worn out to keep up with Vick, McCoy, etc.
  • 9:48 p.m.: Forte fumbles again, but the refs rule he is down by contact. The Eagles are challenging. It looks like he did indeed fumble, but did the Eagles recover? The refs say yes, and Philly gets the ball back at the Bears 41. What's going on with Forte?
  • 9:52 p.m. LeSean McCoy takes it into the end zone for the touchdown, and for the first time tonight, the Eagles have the lead. The Bears' mistakes are costing them huge, and the question could be now whether Forte really deserves that raise with two fumbles in a key game. Eagles up 24-17.
  • 9:56 p.m.: Shot from ESPN's Page 2 on Twitter: 'Matt Forte: "I'd hang on to the ball a little better if it were wrapped in dollar bills."' Sad...
  • 9:57 p.m.: Jay Cutler throws a perfect bomb from his goal line only to have it dropped by Roy Williams 55 yards away. Why did the Bears sign him again?
  • 9:59 p.m.: Shot from the Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom on Twitter: "Help me out here: Did Matt Forte want to get paid before he got hurt or before he hurt the Bears?" 
  • 10:01 p.m.: Williams held on to a pass! Williams held on to a pass! Hey, the Bears are driving, now at the Eagles 30-yard line. 
  • 10:06 p.m.: Robbie Gould narrows the deficit to four points with a 38-yard field goal to make the score 24-20 Eagles. We still have an entire fourth quarter here. 
  • 10:13 p.m.: The Bears hold the Eagles and get the ball back near midfield after Devin Hester returns the ball 19 yards to the Bears 49-yard line. Now if Forte will just hang on to the dang ball... 
  • 10:17 p.m.: Cutler is looking good on this drive. He first somehow escapes a sack and tosses it to Marion Barber for a short gain. He then laterals it to Devin Hester for a first down (and more after the late hit penalty on the Eagles). Unrelated news: ESPN is now reporting that former boxing champion Joe Frazier has died following his bout with liver cancer. 
  • 10:19 p.m.: Cutler finishes the drive off nicely with a 5-yard touchdown pass to former Vanderbilt teammate Earl Bennett. The Bears retake the lead, 27-24 with 12:18 left in the game. 
  • 10:26 p.m.: That was close. The Eagles try a fake punt, but punter Chas Henry can't complete the pass. The Bears take over at their own 42-yard line. This was after Bears DB D.J. Moore drops a sure interception. 9:25 remaining in the game. 
  • 10:31 p.m.: Devin Hester limps off the field with some leg injury. Definitely need him back, if not tonight, then for future games. 
  • 10:34 p.m.: Matt Forte has 122 yards and 20 carries tonight (notwithstanding the two fumbles), and Jay Cutler has yet to be sacked as he has thrown for an efficient 18 for 31 for 208 yards (with a 99.9 passer rating tonight, according to Michael C. Wright of The offensive line is stepping up. Finally. 
  • 10:38 p.m.: If the offensive line's good job of protecting Cutler holds with him not getting sacked, his streak of 32 games (including playoffs) of getting sacked at least once will end, says Michael C. Wright of 4:05 left in the game and the Bears' drive now on the 5-yard line. 
  • 10:40 p.m.: Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune says on Twitter that Devin Hester has a left ankle injury and is not likely to return tonight. 
  • 10:41 p.m.: Robbie Gould extends the Bears' lead to 30-24 with a 22-yard field goal with 3:58 left. The Eagles get a break, and the Bears' defense will have to step up.
  • 10:44 p.m.: Michael Vick takes a whuppin' from Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije as he nearly gets sacked. But he completes a pass to Jeremy Maclin for 13 yards the next play for the first down to the Chicago 39-yard line. DB Tim Jennings then almost intercepts Vick's next pass as we go into the two-minute warning with 1.59 left. What a game!
  • 10:49 p.m.: Michael Vick completes a pass to Jeremy Maclin, but he falls a yard shy of the first down on fourth down after being tackled by D.J. Moore with 1;48 left. The Bears get the ball back and now have to run the clock out. 
  • 10:54 p.m.: What do you know? The Bears win! The Bears win! I enjoy being wrong sometimes.
Post-game wrap-up:

It wasn't really pretty at times, especially with Matt Forte's uncharacteristic two fumbles. But a win is a win and this is a big one for the Bears as they move up to a 5-3 record. While they are still in third place, three games behind the Packers and one behind the Lions, they stay in sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC, just ahead of the Atlanta Falcons based on the head-to-head matchup.

Source: Zimbio/Getty Images
It would be tempting to give the MVP for the game to the Bears' offensive line for providing the protection for Jay Cutler in not letting him get sacked and allowing Forte to gain 133 yards on 24 carries, but this game ball should go to WR Earl Bennett, who caught five passes from his former Vanderbilt teammate for 95 yards and a touchdown.

Next up for the Bears is a rematch against the Lions in the late game Sunday at Soldier Field. The Lions are coming off a week off that followed a 45-10 blasting of the Broncos in Denver.

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