Wednesday, September 3, 2014
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Eagles-Bears: What we're watching

Daily News football writer Paul Domowitch tells you what he will be keeping an eye on when the Eagles meet the Bears Sunday:

Eagles-Bears: What we're watching

Chicago Bears punt returner Devin Hester is more than capable of breaking open a game with a big return.  (AP Photo/Paul Spinelli)
Chicago Bears punt returner Devin Hester is more than capable of breaking open a game with a big return. (AP Photo/Paul Spinelli)

Daily News football writer Paul Domowitch tells you what he will be keeping an eye on when the Eagles meet the Bears Sunday:

1. The turnover battle: The Eagles and Bears are 1-2 in the league in takeaways. The Eagles have 26, the Bears 25. But the Eagles' most dangerous takeaway artist, cornerback Asante Samuel, who has a league-best seven interceptions, is nursing an MCL sprain that could limit him or keep him out of the game. The Eagles, who have only turned the ball over 11 times and have a league-best plus-15 turnover differential, are 7-1 this season when they've won the turnover battle.

2. Many happy returns: The Bears'  Devin Hester is one of the league's most dangerous punt returners, and the Eagles' Sav Rocca no doubt will try to keep the ball away from him. Hester is second in the league in punt returns with a 15.0-yard average and already has taken two back for TDs. The Eagles are 26th in punt coverage, but opponents have started inside their own 31-yard line on 17 of Rocca's last 22 punts.

3. The big play: The speed of wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and the big arm of Michael Vick have given the Eagles big-strike capability. They're second in the league in pass plays of 40 yards or more with 10 and fifth in pass plays of 20 yards or more with 36. But the Bears' Tampa-2 defense hasn't allowed many long passes. They Bears have given up just two 40-plus yard pass plays all season and have given up the third fewest 20-plus yard pass plays (24).

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4. Chasing Mike: Michael Vick had his poorest game of the season against the Giants. He failed to throw a TD pass, had just one completion longer than 25 yards and averaged just 3.1 yards on 11 rushing attempts. The Giants tried to force the lefthanded Vick to his right as often as possible, a strategy that is likely to be copied by the Bears and every other team that faces the Eagles this season.

5. Turning up the heat:  Neither the Bears nor the Eagles have been particularly good at protecting the quarterback this season. The Bears are 32nd in the league in sacks allowed per pass play. The Eagles are 26th. The difference is Michael Vick is considerably more elusive than Jay Cutler and can extend plays on his own. Cutler has a lot of Brett Favre-like gunslinger in him, which is to say if the Eagles can get in his face, he will make some ill-advised throws.


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Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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Eagletarian is your home for comprehensive coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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