Upon Further Review: Trent Cole continues second-half surge
Trent Cole is having quite a second half of the season. He and the Eagles argued that he was effective in the first half, but Cole seems to be adjusting more steadily to this season's move from defensive end to outside linebacker.
He lines up nearly everywhere along the line and doesn't always rush from a two-point stance, though.
Cole's first sack against the Bears came when he stuck his hand in the ground from the nine-technique (outside the offensive tackle) and ran over running back Matt Forte on the way to Jay Cutler. His second sack was more of a coverage one, but Cole's effort has never waned this season. All six of his sacks have come in the second half.
He now stands alone in second place on the Eagles' all-time sack list with 79, ahead of Clyde Simmons (78) and behind Reggie White (124).
Corners step up big
The Eagles knew they would be challenged by the Bears' talented wide-receiver combination, although the Eagles' starting cornerbacks made it a tough evening for both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery entered halftime with four catches for 59 yards on six targets. Marshall was limited to one catch for 14 yards on five targets before breaking loose for a touchdown in the third quarter. Their statistics were respectable, which is expected from two players who have both eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards. But Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher were not beat deep by the receivers, and they remained physical throughout the game. It was similar to the Eagles' win over Arizona on Dec. 1.
Williams and Fletcher also benefited from help over top from the safeties. That sometimes left a linebacker covering tight end Martellus Bennett, which was a mismatch that benefited Chicago. But what could have been the biggest challenge in the passing game this season was one that Williams and Fletcher passed.
A week after Chip Kelly and the Eagles were criticized for the decision to kick short of the Vikings' Cordarrelle Patterson, they approached the Bears' Devin Hester differently. And it worked - at least through the first half.
Kicker Alex Henery shortened his directional kicks, but they weren't pooches that landed around the 25. Instead he added a little more leg and kicked between the goal line and the 10-yard line. Hester's longest first-half return was to the 35, but Fletcher stripped him, and Williams recovered the fumble. The Bears faked and tried a reverse on two of their returns, but neither fooled special-teams coach Dave Fipp's unit.
Relegated to a little more than spot duty as a receiver in recent weeks, Demaris Johnson was back returning punts on Sunday. DeSean Jackson, who has handled most of the work since Week 9, fielded the first punt against the Bears but lost 3 yards on the return. Johnson took over from there and let the first one bounce until it was downed and fair-caught the second before the half.
The Eagles have looked for creative ways to get Jackson in space this season. For the second consecutive week, he lined up in the backfield with relative frequency. Against the Vikings, it was a way to get Jackson to run routes against the nickel cornerback. Against the Bears, his patterns were to the flat - and they were actually backward passes, so they counted as rushes for Jackson.
Jackson was credited with two first-half carries for 12 yards. He had only one first-half reception, but the runs allowed him to operate in space. They did not help his total receiving yards, though, which is relevant in his race to break Mike Quick's single-season franchise record.
Kelly walked off the field with the officials at halftime. He appeared to have an issue with a call. The Bears benefited from a favorable spot on an 11-yard scramble that gave Chicago a first down on third and 10 from the Eagles' 43-yard line. With the first down, Jay Cutler spiked the ball to set up a 50-yard field goal before halftime. Had the call not resulted in a first down, Cutler would not have been able to spike the ball.
Kelly threw his challenge flag twice in the third quarter - and he looked good on one and not the other. After LeSean McCoy was charged with a fumble, Kelly challenged that McCoy was down. However, that play cannot be challenged by coaches because it's automatically reviewed by the official's booth. Kelly was charged with a timeout as a penalty, although the Eagles kept possession because replay confirmed that McCoy was down.
Kelly also challenged the spot on a Bears rushing play from the end zone. After review, officials determined that Matt Forte was down in the end zone and the call was a safety. The replay gave the Eagles two points and the ball back.