Bears vs. Eagles: What to Watch 4
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Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who has taken the super-sub role to another level, is unlikely to be fazed by the Bears’ outstanding defense. The last time he faced a defense this good in the playoffs, he strafed the top-ranked Vikings defense for 352 yards and three touchdown passes in a 38-7 rout in the NFC Championship Game last season at Lincoln Financial Field.
After a magical run to the Super Bowl last year — a 72.6 completion percentage, 971 yards and six touchdown passes to only one interception for a 115.7 passer rating in three postseason games — Foles has regained his touch since replacing injured starter Carson Wentz in Week 15. He threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns in a crucial 32-30 victory against the Texans to help get the Eagles in.
The Bears counter with a defense ranked fourth in rushing yards per play and first in passing yards per play that is well-balanced from front to back and side to side, with no real weaknesses to attack — though Zach Ertz or Golden Tate vs. nickel back Sherrick McManis bears watching.
Foles has pass plays of 82 and 50 yards to Nelson Agholor and 52 and 50 to Alshon Jeffery. The Bears have allowed pass plays of 75, 75, 55, 51 and 49 yards — all in their four losses.
Bears running back Jordan Howard has averaged 79.8 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry in his last five games (88 carries, 399 yards, four touchdowns), including 21 carries for 109 yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings last week and 19 carries and 101 yards against the Rams in Week 14. Before that, Howard had averaged 45.4 yards per game and 3.1 yards per carry.
PLAYER TO WATCH
While Foles has an impressive résumé of postseason accomplishment, Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky will be playing in his first postseason game. Trubisky ranked 16th in the NFL in passer rating (95.4 — 24 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions).
But after a rough start against the Rams on Dec. 9 when he was returning from a two-game absence with a sprained shoulder, Trubisky has a 109.7 rating in his last three games (63-for-83, 644 yards, three touchdown passes, no interceptions).
The Bears are in the playoffs for the first time since 2010 (though a few key players — including Danny Trevathan, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel — have recent playoff experience). They are playing at home, and expectations are high. And they are playing the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Bears have shown every indication that they’re ready for the moment, responding repeatedly to challenges during the regular season — a tough loss, an emotional victory or a tough stretch in the schedule. The Eagles figure to make this the biggest challenge yet.