The Eagles hung on for a 16-15 road win over the Bears, and they advanced to a divisional round playoff game at New Orleans, which trounced Philadelphia, 48-7, in Week 11. The result also sent the Cowboys to Los Angeles to square off with the Rams next week. Here are the five biggest takeaways from the seesaw affair at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
Nick Foles does it again: We’ll get to Cody Parkey’s missed field goal in just a moment, but Foles has to get top billing, because a) his team won; b) he led a late drive for what would turn out to be the game-winning touchdown; and c) he was the biggest story line coming into the contest.
It remains to be seen if Foles can actually recreate last season’s magical run to Super Bowl MVP honors, but he’s off to a great start. With a little pixie dust sprinkled in via the upright and crossbar that denied Parkey, Foles managed to lead Philadelphia to a playoff win in which it began as the biggest underdog of the weekend’s NFL slate.
Once again forced into action after a late-season injury to Carson Wentz, Foles has led the Eagles to four straight wins in as many starts, and apart from one ghastly first-half interception — another one arguably wasn’t his fault — he played well. The veteran quarterback, who turns 30 in two weeks, completed 25 of 40 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns (plus the pair of picks) and, as noted, he took the Eagles 60 yards to pay dirt when their season was hanging in the balance.
On that drive, Foles completed 6 of 9 passes for 59 yards and capped it with a two-yard touchdown toss to wide receiver Golden Tate. Bear in mind, as it were, this was against Khalil Mack and Co., who led the NFL this season by allowing just 17.7 points per game and forced the most turnovers (36), including the most interceptions (27). Even if Philadelphia ultimately didn’t even reach that scoring mark, with its defense deserving plaudits for keeping Chicago in check, Foles’s unflappable demeanor and frequently accurate passing were instrumental in the victory.
Okay, so about that kick: Oy. As Bears fans know all too well, it’s not just that Parkey’s miss, from 43 yards out with 10 seconds left, took a meandering path around the goal posts before bouncing back onto the field, it’s that he proved remarkably adept this season at hitting the uprights.
In fact, Parkey managed the “trick” four times in one game, in a November home win over the Lions in which his misses, none of which passed through the uprights after hitting them, came on two field goal attempts and two extra-point tries. Parkey wasn’t done, however, as he also smacked a post on a would-be extra point during the Bears' Week 17 win over the Vikings.
“I feel terrible,” Parkey said after Sunday’s loss. “There’s really no answer to it. I thought I hit a good ball.”
Parkey was booed off the field by Bears fans, and in the immediate aftermath, it seems unlikely that he’ll be back with the team next season. However, Chicago has plenty of time now, much more than it would have wanted, to ponder its kicking situation.
Trubisky impresses: Through the first half, it seemed as if all three of the first- and second-year quarterbacks starting this weekend, including the Texans' Deshaun Watson and the Ravens' Lamar Jackson, would submit sub-par efforts. In the second half, though, the Bears' Mitchell Trubisky played very well and gave the Soldier Field faithful at least one bright spot from a heartbreaking day.
Completing 13 of 20 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown after halftime, Trubisky had his team in position to win. The second overall pick in the 2017 draft, he had a decidedly up-and-down 2018 campaign, of which Sunday could be seen as a microcosm, but Trubisky appears to heading into the offseason on something of an individual high note.
Not goin' with Cohen: Among the many regrets Bears Coach Matt Nagy could have about the way he managed the game was not giving Tarik Cohen the ball enough. The explosive, if undersized, running back was arguably the Bears' most consistent and dangerous weapon in the regular season, but he wound up with just four touches for 27 yards, including one carry, against the Eagles.
Nagy on Tarik Cohen: “Every team we play will have a plan for 29...Four touches is not enough.”— Dan Cohen (@DanCohenWREX) January 7, 2019
A bigger challenge ahead: The Eagles' secondary, for the most part, did an admirable job against the Bears, considering its banged-up nature. With starting cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills lost to season-ending injuries, while nickel corner Sidney Jones was out Sunday with a hamstring issue, veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins was surrounded by plenty of inexperience in the defensive backfield.
Fill-in cornerbacks Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc played well for much of the game, but Chicago eventually began picking on Maddox for big gains to wide receiver Allen Robinson. They ultimately helped their team get the win, but the reward is a trip to New Orleans, where Drew Brees strafed the Eagles for 363 yards, four touchdowns and no picks in a November blowout. Philadelphia can hope for Douglas, Maddox and LeBlanc to put together an even better effort, against all odds, but Foles and the offense should plan on lighting up the scoreboard themselves, if they are to have a realistic shot at winning.
Doink!: Double-doink, actually, as NBC’s Al Michaels put it. Chicago’s Cody Parkey was denied on a potentially game-winning, 43-yard field goal with 10 seconds left when the ball hit the left upright, then off the crossbar before bouncing back onto the field of play.
The miss allowed the Eagles to hang onto a 16-15 win, and it stunned the crowd at Soldier Field, which was ready to celebrate a playoff triumph. Before the miss, Parkey had gone 3 for 3 on field goals in the game, but his gaffe was a reminder of the fact that he hit the upright a remarkable four times in one November game, on two field goal and two extra-point attempts, and then did the same thing one more time on another extra-point attempt last week.
Philadelphia advances to face the Saints in New Orleans, while Parkey and the Bears will have a loooong offseason to think about what just happened.
Late drama: Exciting enough for ya? On a fourth-down play with under a minute left in the game, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles hit wide receiver Golden Tate on a two-yard touchdown pass to re-take the lead for Philadelphia, 16-15. The team came agonizingly close to converting the ensuing two-point conversion, but Eagles running back Josh Adams had the ball knocked out of his hands just before he broke the plane of the end zone on a dive over the pile. Foles completed 6 of 9 passes for 61 yards on that drive.
Bears bite back: Chicago has the lead again, as the connection between quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and wide receiver Allen Robinson continues to click in the second half. Robinson again burned Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox, this time for a 22-yard touchdown catch, making the score 15-10, where it stayed after the Bears failed to convert a two-point try.
Big play for the Bears: Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has had a relatively quiet game, but he and wide receiver Allen Robinson combined on a big play just before the third quarter ended. Robinson hauled in a 45-yard pass on what appeared to be a gamble that failed by Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox. Chicago’s drive stalled shortly after the fourth quarter started, but Cody Parkey came on to kick his third field goal, a 34-yarder that cut the Eagles' lead to 10-9.
In the (end) zone: We have a touchdown! The Eagles did the honors and retook the lead, 10-6, with quarterback Nick Foles hitting tight end Dallas Goedert on a 10-yard scoring play. Philadelphia’s drive was greatly aided by two major Bears penalties, the first an unnecessary roughing call and the second a pass-interference flag that amounted to a 33-yard gain for the Eagles.
HALF: A bit of a seesaw affair unfolded in a 6-3 first half in Chicago, with the most notable plays occurring on plays that either were interceptions, were nearly so or probably should have been ruled fumbles (see below). Ultimately, fans of both team could feel cautiously optimistic while ruing missed opportunities.
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, seeking to recapture last season’s playoff magic, looked good at times while moving the Eagles' offense mostly through the air, but he was picked off twice, the second of which likely cost his team at least three points. Bears counterpart Mitchell Trubisky had a shakier go of it, but he appeared to find something of a rhythm late in the second quarter.
Chicago running back Jordan Howard had some solid moments, carrying five times for 25 yards, while Philadelphia wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had three early catches for 55 yards but couldn’t build on the hot start. In a low-scoring slug-fest, it would not be surprising to see the Bears try to use Howard more often in the second half, with Foles continuing to air it out and hoping to avoid any more major mistakes.
Sure about that, ref?: With less than a minute left in the first half, the Bears failed to benefit from an unusual officiating situation. Chicago wide receiver Anthony Miller caught a pass deep in Eagles territory but lost control of it as he was taken to the ground by Philadelphia’s Cre’von LeBlanc. The play was ruled an incomplete pass, but as it was being reviewed, NBC’s announcing crew, including former NFL referee Terry Macaulay, opined that it was a completion, given the steps Miller took in apparent possession of the ball, and a fumble that was not recovered by either team because the whistle had blown.
The original ruling of an incomplete pass was eventually upheld, and the very next play almost saw Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky picked off in the end zone. After a Jordan Howard run got the ball to the 11-yard line with three seconds left, Chicago’s Cody Parkey kicked his second field goal of the game, giving his squad its first lead, 6-3, as both teams went to the locker room.
Quite the Foles-pas: If Nick Foles’s first interception was arguably not his fault, his second one looked like a major mistake on the part of the Eagles quarterback. With Philadelphia in field goal range amid a nice-looking drive, Foles rolled to his right and threw into heavy coverage in the end zone. His pass was easily picked off by Chicago’s Adrian Amos Jr. for a touchback.
Following the earlier interception of Nick Foles, Philadelphia shot itself in the foot when defensive end Michael Bennett committed an unnecessary roughness penalty, which allowed the Bears' drive to continue after they appeared to have been stopped on third down. Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky then hit running back Tarik Cohen for a 19-yard gain before the drive stalled, and Cody Parkey was able to connect on a 36-yard field goal to tie the score at 3-3.
Picked!: Well, Nick Foles was off to a great start — right up until he threw an interception early in the second quarter. In fairness, it was more of a bad play by the Eagles Wendell Smallwood, who let rookie Bears linebacker Roquan Smith strip it from him after the running back had appeared to make the catch. Smith got up and ran it into the end zone, but he was ruled down by contact and Chicago took possession at its own 35-yard line.
Eagles take early 3-0 lead: Nick Foles, trying to recreate last season’s playoff magic, got off to a good start against the Bears and their vaunted defense. Playing in place of injured Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz for the fourth straight game, he completed four of five passes for 57 yards on Philadelphia’s opening possession, leading to a field goal and an early 3-0 lead.
Legendary prelude: A pair of all-time-great Chicago linebackers (which is saying something), Brian Urlacher and Dick Butkus, got the crowd at Soldier Field revved up just before the game. Butkus was wearing a Bears hat but he knocked it off while waving his towel, and he kicked it away rather than interrupt his momentum.
Injuries: Bears tight end Trey Burton — he of the “Philly Special” Super Bowl touchdown throw to Eagles quarterback Nick Foles — is out with a groin injury, replaced by Adam Shaheen. Chicago safety Eddie Jackson, however, is active after missing the past two games with an ankle injury. A pair of notable Eagles, defensive end Michael Bennett (foot) and offensive tackle Jason Peters (quadriceps), were active.
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