Every game this season is going to be a struggle.
After halftime of the Eagles’ 22-14 win over the Chicago Bears at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles scored on their first drive to make the score 19-0.
At the time, it looked like the Eagles were headed toward a blowout.
But the Bears offense, which produced an embarrassing total of just nine net yards in the first half, came to life.
Chicago, led by its much-maligned quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, put together two touchdown drives to make the score 19-14, with plenty of time remaining in the fourth quarter.
A cakewalk to Philly’s fifth win and second in a row was now a nail-biter.
A sense of impending gloom swept through Eagles Nation as the Birds’ ensuing drive went a total of 11 yards on five plays before having to punt.
It got gloomier when Chicago running back David Montgomery, who had scored both Bears touchdowns, ripped off a 17-yard run to start Chicago’s next drive from its own 30-yard line.
The Eagles defense, though, stiffened up and stopped the drive at the Bears’ 48-yard line.
There was 8:39 left in the fourth quarter when the Eagles started a drive with bad field position from their own 11-yard line.
What happened over the next eight minutes and 14 seconds is what head coaches and offensive coordinators dream of seeing unfold.
The Eagles offense, led by quarterback Carson Wentz, ran off a 16-play, 69-yard drive that stalled at the Bears’ 20-yard line with 1:14 left in the fourth quarter.
But Chicago was out of timeouts. Coach Doug Pederson let the clock wind down to 28 seconds before Jake Elliott booted a 38-yard field goal to give the home team a 22-14 lead.
Any drama that may have taken place over the last 28 seconds vanished quickly when Bears special teams player Adam Shaheen, a tight end by trade, muffed the ensuing kickoff that was recovered by Eagles linebacker Duke Riley to seal the win.
Eagles center Jason Kelce was asked what the mood was in the huddle going into the last drive. It was a crucial drive that started at their own 11-yard line and ended up taking 16 plays, 69 yards and over eight minutes off the clock, leading to Elliott’s field goal to make the score 22-14.
“Obviously, we were trying to end the game with the ball,” Kelce said. “It was late in the game, frustrated in the way we played the game in the whole second half. We were all fired up trying to get something going. Some guys made some plays. That’s really what we talked about. Everybody execute and do your job, somebody’s going to make some plays.”
There were certainly some big plays. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who had several dropped passes during the game, caught a crucial 13-yard pass from Wentz on third down that kept the drive alive.
Wentz then hit rookie running back Miles Sanders with a 15-yard pass on 3rd-and-12, setting up a first down at the Eagles’ 44-yard line.
Tight end Dallas Goedert’s 16-yard catch-and-run set up a first down on the Bears’ 28-yard line with 2:15 left on the clock. The play effectively ended the game.
Right tackle Lane Johnson knew the Birds defense had been solid all game. It was their turn to have an impact after a mostly disappointing second half.
“We know it’s up to us to go and win the game,” Johnson said. “It’s something we talk about. You have to watch our practices. We do a lot of run blocking, that’s what we practice a lot. Really, when you practice it that many times, it just becomes second nature. We did a good job of that in the first half. We got a little slow in the second half, but we kept it up in the second half.”
Johnson said good football teams get solid play from all their units: offense, defense and special teams.
“Teams know how to complement each other and find a way,” Johnson said. We ran the ball, had some good play action, some good screens there on that last drive, kind of got us out of a bind. It wasn’t pretty but it was what it was.”
The Eagles kept the Bears’ all-pro edge rusher, Khalil Mack, in check for the most part all afternoon. Mack finished with four total tackles, including two tackles for loss, one quarterback hurry and a defended pass.
Mack, who after the game complained about Kelce’s handling of the football before each snap and how he was drawing the Bears offsides, talked about how he feels about the team’s position at the halfway point of the season after this loss.
“It’s a hard loss,” the six-year veteran said. “I understand how it was coming up to their home field. It was going to take a lot from the defense to put us in a position to win the ballgame. It was a hard loss.”
Ertz said, with the Bears’ outstanding defense, every point mattered.
“I don’t know what the numbers were, but against that defense you’re not going to have a lot of explosive plays. It’s kind of a bend-but-don’t-break defense, especially in the secondary because they know how talented their front four are. We knew coming into the game, it wasn’t going to be like we’re going to put up 30 points on that defense. It’s too talented and, overall, we’re 1-0 this week, 5-4 going into the bye, I’m pretty good with that.” ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii