Eagles defense leaves Bears with nowhere to run

Eagles defensive linemen Tim Jernigan (left) and Brandon Graham (right) stop Chicago running back Jordan Howard for a 1-yard loss on 3rd and 2 in the 1st quarter of the game November 26, 2017 at Lincoln Financial Field. Eagles won 31-3.

With two and a half minutes left in the Eagles’ 31-3 victory Sunday, Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky scrambled to his left and was pushed out of bounds after gaining 11 yards.

This moment was scarcely noted by the Lincoln Financial Field crowd, because a large portion of it was on the way home, and the hardy remainder was too busy celebrating the fact that the home team was about to become the 39th in the Super Bowl era to start 10-1. But it was kind of a big deal, in that Trubisky’s ramble took the Bears out of negative rushing yardage for the game.

The team that came into the game ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing, with 1,318 yards on 290 carries  (4.5-yard average) ended the game with 6 yards, on 14 carries. That is 0.4 yards per carry, not exactly what Bears coach John Fox was looking for as he sent rookie quarterback Trubisky out for his seventh career start against the Eagles’ carnivorous pass rush. Jordan Howard, the NFL’s third-leading rusher, was held to 6 yards on seven carries.

“At the end of the day, we would really like to keep them at a negative, so that would have been special, but still, a good day,” defensive end Chris Long allowed, after facing a Bears offensive line that included his brother Kyle at right guard.  “That’s a group that’s run for a hundred yards a bunch this year. After last week, we played a good game [at Dallas], but we wanted to step up our run defense. I think that was a challenge that we met.”

Dallas had some success beating the Eagles on the edges, but Chicago seemed to think it was going to run inside on the Eagles, where Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan lurk. That definitely wasn’t happening Sunday.

“We knew they had a really good running back who could hurt us. That was the focus all week,” Cox said.  “[The Bears] just came off a tough loss against the Lions. We knew they would come here and play all-out. We had to stop it early in the game to let them know that we’re here to take the run away, we’re going to make the quarterback beat us.”

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Trubisky was not up to that challenge. He got some garbage-time yards, finishing 17 for 33 for 147, but he threw two interceptions, one fumbled back to the Bears by Malcolm Jenkins.  The Bears did not gain a first down in the first half – the first time the Eagles have managed that since 1992 – and their only first-half trips into Eagles’ territory were courtesy of Eagles turnovers. The Bears didn’t have to worry about misfiring in the red zone because they never entered the red zone, at any point during the game.

The national focus is pretty tight on quarterback Carson Wentz, who threw three more touchdown passes Sunday, all in the first half, but Jim Schwartz’s defense did not allow a touchdown for the second game in a row. It has been 129 minutes, 45 seconds since an opponent scored an offensive touchdown against the Eagles, and that was the only TD they allowed in the month of November. The six rushing yards allowed Sunday represented the lowest total by an Eagles opponent since 1950. Chicago’s 140 net yards were the least against the Eagles since 1996.

Asked how the Eagles shut down the Bears’ run game, defensive end Brandon Graham said: “We made it about us. We went out there and did our job. We weren’t backing down from whatever challenge we had. We’re going out there with the mindset that’s what we’re going to do, we’re going to stop their run. … We don’t have to do [anything special]. We don’t have to finesse anybody. We just do our job and do what we’re coached to do.

“I didn’t even realize they didn’t get a first down [in the first half] until Jim said it. Like, ‘Dang, OK.’ We’re just out there playing.”

Graham’s sack of Trubisky was his career-high seventh of the season.

Long, asked about not allowing Chicago to move the chains in the first half, said: “We certainly didn’t play perfect ball, either. That just shows you how good we can be. … When you’re on a good team like this, nobody has to play outside themselves, everybody just [has to] play their role.”

Schwartz doesn’t talk to reporters after games, only on Tuesdays. When he steps to the lectern this week, Schwartz probably will be asked about Jernigan’s characterization of him.

Jernigan said Schwartz’s effect on the defense can be measured by “the way he demands things to be perfect, man.

“We could be having a great game, guys have negative-6 yards, whatever the case is, rushing, but as soon as a play pops open, he’s furious. Face turning red, like, you’re going to hear it from him. I think that’s what makes us special. We know we’ve got coaches that are going to push us, but at the same time, we know it’s all love at the end of the day.”

Jernigan was asked if he finds Schwartz intimidating.

“Nah, not at all. He’s only 5-foot-5. He ain’t intimidating,” Jernigan said, selling Schwartz short by several inches. “He’s like a little Tic Tac, man — little, but he packs a a lot of power. … We respect the hell out of him. I’ve never heard a guy disrespect him, or anything of that nature. … We love playing for him.”

Linebacker Nigel Bradham said the defense reflects Schwartz in “the aggressiveness, the energy, the passion – he has all that in him. The urgency to be able to stay on cue and  get things executed so we can get our offense the ball really fast, because we know we can put up points.”

The talk during the week was that the Bears, 3-7 coming in and trying to protect Trubisky, would stick with the run, regardless, make the Eagles stop it for four quarters, something they really haven’t had to do. When push came to shove, this was not the case. Down 24-0 at halftime, the Bears did what everybody does, they stopped running – six attempts in the second half.

“A team is pretty much telling us they’re going to run the ball on us,” Bradham said. “We feel some type of way about that – that’s one of our strengths, we feel.”