Four Downs; What to Watch for in Bears vs Eagles..................
4 downs: Bears have won 4 of 5 under Lovie after open week
What to watch when the Bears play the Eagles
Brad Biggs, Tribune Reporter 6:00 p.m. CST, November 6, 2011
1. Refreshed and ready
The Bears hope to find any edge possible and having a week off to prepare generally has served them well. They have won four of their last five games coming off an open date under Lovie Smith and are 14-8 all-time in the regular season since off weeks were introduced in 1990. Only four franchises have better records. But is it really an aid? Teams coming off an open date have won 52.6 percent of the time. Teams coming off a week of rest are 2-7 on the road this season. Lance Briggs said the timing — near midseason — was ideal for players to be fresh. But it only helps if they win.
2. Drawing the line
The Bears offensive line will feature the same lineup for the third consecutive game and the hope is communication problems that plagued the unit in road losses at New Orleans and Detroit won't pop up. The offense had 12 false starts in those games — nine by the line. The Bears aren't where they want to be with rookie Gabe Carimi still out, but a little continuity has made a difference. The first-round pick should be available soon, and that leaves the coaching staff with a little more time to evaluate what the line should look like in the future. Will Lance Louis or Chris Spencer play right guard?
3. Counting on Cutler
Running back Matt Forte is in the midst of the finest season by a Bears running back since Walter Payton, and it's the primary reason why the Bears have a winning record. But if the Bears want to achieve their goals, it's time for quarterback Jay Cutler to rise to an elite level. His name isn't mentioned among the NFL's elite passers because he doesn't perform on a consistent basis. Top defenses and top quarterbacks rule the landscape in January. For the Bears to get there, they need both to play at a higher level.
4. Back stoppers
Stopping the Eagles offense is challenging because they have achieved rare balance in recent weeks with the use of running back LeSean McCoy. Usually, the Eagles are tilted toward being a heavy passing team, but they're excelling in both areas and that makes them difficult to stop. It starts for the Bears up front with the defensive line Lovie Smith has challenged, but the safeties should be a focal point because they're on the radar of Michael Vick. The Bears can't afford the breakdowns in the back end that have crippled them. Young players Chris Conte and Major Wright have a chance to establish themselves.