CHICAGO -- For those who believe in worrisome parts of football schedules, and trap games, and the pendulum of emotion that is the result of those forces, the Eagles' game against the Chicago Bears was proof positive. It looked like a bad spot coming into the game and it was: Bears 31, Eagles 26.
Everbody knew the deal. The Eagles had just played three emotional games in succession, including two within the NFC East, and won them all. They are in the middle of an odd stretch: Monday night, Sunday night, Sunday afternoon, then Thursday night upcoming against Houston. This looked like trouble all along. And it was.
For the people who calmed their concerns with this mantra -- "But it's Jay Cutler playing for the Bears" -- it turned out that Cutler played about as well as people around here have seen him play. He did it against an Eagles defense that was missing injured cornerback Asante Samuel, and it really showed. Anybody who can doubt Samuel's value to this defense should be forced to watch a tape of this one on a continuous loop. Without Samuel, both sides of the field were suddenly open for attack, and Cutler did just fine, thanks: 14 for 21 for 247 yards and 4 touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was beaten up for the second consecutive week, and there were long stretches where he looked pretty ordinary under the Chicago assault. On a day when very few Eagles people played well, Vick was still good (but no better than that). He missed some throws, he seemed very reluctant to throw the ball at other times, and at least twice, he was chased down from behind by Chicago defense end Julius Peppers on scrambles out of the pocket.
For the day, Vick's numbers -- which were kind of padded in the fourth quarter when the Bears were thrilled to see him throwing underneath while trailing by two scores -- wen like this: 29 for 44 for 333 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The game turned radically right before the end of the first half. The Eagles were on the Bears' 4-yard line, trailing by 14-13, when Vick's pass into the end zone, intended for Jeremy Maclin, was tipped in the backfield by Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris, intercepted by safety Chris Harris, and returned to the Bears' 37 yard line. Six plays later, the Bears scored on a 6-yard pass from Cutler to wide receiver Earl Bennett.
What could have been a 20-14 Eagles lead was instead a 21-13 deficit. And when the Bears took the opening kickoff and Devin Hester returned it 46 yards...and then Hester got 34 more yards on a catch-and-run play...and then Cutler hit tight end Greg Olsen with a 9-yard touchdown over the outstretched hands of cornerback Dmitri Patterson, the rout was on.
To their credit, the Eagles did hang in. Again, playing against a team willing to trade yards for time, they moved the ball and, with 1:48 to go, a touchdown pass to tight end Brent Celek, caught in the midst of a crowd, brought the Eagles back to 31-26. It was kind of deceiving, though. And when the ensuing onsides kick failed, it was all over but the pushing and shoving that continued until the end.