It looked ugly for a while, though the 2022 Eagles have shown a penchant for paying little attention to reflections. They’ve been a bottom-line, end-result team no matter how awful they look getting to their destination. They have a remarkable capacity for selective amnesia.
The Eagles, wounded by three turnovers and an out-of-sync Jalen Hurts early on, scratched out a tougher-than-it-should-have-been 25-20 victory over the woeful Chicago Bears, who have now lost seven straight, on Sunday at Soldier Field.
The Eagles moved to 13-1 for the second time in franchise history tying the 2004 NFC champion Eagles, when they beat Dallas, 12-7, that season on December 19, almost 18 years to the day this version of the Eagles reached that mark.
The Eagles are 6-0 in one-possession games and walked clear of the sinkhole this could have been. The Eagles, owning the tiebreaker over the Minnesota Vikings coupled with the Dallas’ 40-34 overtime loss to Jacksonville, could clinch homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a victory at Dallas on Saturday.
Hurts managed to overcome his early problems by completing 22 of 37 for 315 yards and two interceptions, while scoring three times on runs of 22, 1 and 1 yard. A.J. Brown had a career day in grabbing 9 passes for a career-high 181 yards. Brown, however, had to work considerably for it against the Bears’ formidable Jaylon Johnson.
The Eagles remain the only undefeated NFL team on the road.
There was late-arriving good, a touch of bad and some glaring ugly, especially when Bears’ quarterback Justin Fields took a 39-yard walk through the Eagles’ defense in the second quarter. The Eagles are a bottom-line team, so regardless of how ugly it did look, it was still a 25-20 Eagles’ victory over the stubborn Chicago Bears.
A.J. Brown’s 68-yard reception on third-and-six at the Eagles’ 29 with 5:18 to play. Bears’ corner Jaylon Johnson and Brown had been battling back-and-forth all game. Johnson actually did a great job on Brown, though on this crucial play, Brown got the better of it. It marked the second time a Hurts-to-Brown reception led to a Hurts’ 1-yard score. This time, Hurts’ 1-yard plunge sealed it, giving the Eagles a 25-13 lead with 4:20 to play. Brown finished with a game-high 9 receptions on 16 targets for a career-high 181 yards.
Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave’s 9-yard sack back at the Bears’ 21 on Chicago’s first possession of the second half. Hargrave had two sacks.
Hurts regaining his passing touch on the perfectly placed, arcing 29-yard completion to Brown on the Bears’ 2 with 12:59 left in the third quarter. Johnson blanketed Brown, and if not for the finely executed throw, the pass would have been incomplete, as it was when Hurts underthrew Brown in the end zone in the second quarter when Johnson knocked it away.
Boston Scott’s 58-yard kick return to open the second half, which set up Hurts’ second touchdown of the game and gave the Eagles some cushion with a 17-6 third-quarter lead.
Hurts running the first half. He rushed for the Eagles’ lone touchdown of the half, which was a 22-yard draw up the middle without being touched. Great blocking on the play by left guard Landon Dickerson and center Jason Kelce clearing out the Bears’ front and leaving an open path for Hurts.
Defensive end Haason Reddick the entire game. He recovered a fumble at the Eagles’ 43 on the Bears’ first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 42 The fumble was caused by linebacker T.J. Edwards from the backside and Reddick was there to pick it up. After Hurts’ second interception, the Eagles needed someone to make a play. It was Reddick on consecutive plays. Reddick pressured Fields and got a piece of Fields on a second-and-16 at the Eagles’ 20, followed by Reddick’s second sack for 11 yards. That was an underlying pivotal moment, since Bears’ kicker Cairo Santos told Chicago head coach Matt Eberflus that he didn’t think he could make a 48-yard field goal—a makable distance by most of today’s NFL kickers. The Bear gave away a possible three points in a tight game.
On the Bears’ second drive, defensive end Josh Sweat’s 14-yard sack back at the Chicago 25 on a third-and-10 at the Chicago 39. Sweat had a great series. Two plays earlier, on a first-and-10 at the Chicago 39, Sweat forced Fields to run out of bounds for a two-yard loss. Sweat finished with two sacks.
Linebacker T.J. Edwards caused a fumble and made a crucial play, taking down Bears’ tight end Cole Kmet at the Chicago 40 after a 7-yard gain on the Bears’ 33 with 2:54 left in the third quarter. It forced the Bears to punt and resulted in the Eagles’ marathon 19-play, 8-minute, 38-second drive that ended on Jake Elliott’s missed 38-yard field goal attempt that clanged off the upright. Edwards was tied for the team lead with 9 tackles.
DeVonta Smith’s five catches for 126 yards on eight targets. He came up with big third-down catches. On a third-and-10 at the Eagles’ 4 in the last two minutes of the third quarter, Smith hauled in a Hurts’ pass for 14 yards to the Eagles’ 18. It got the Eagles beyond the shadow of their goalposts. He had a 21-yard reception on a third-and-three at the Eagles’ 39 in the first half. Smith later provided running room blocking for Miles Sanders on his 18-yard run early in the fourth quarter. By halftime, Smith caught three passes on four targets for 104 yards and was one a few bright spots for the Eagles offensively in the half.
Hurts on the Eagles’ third play of the game. He saw his first option covered, probably saw his second and third covered, and created more time with his legs to find Smith down field for a 21-yard gain on a third-and-three at the Eagles’ 39. It’s a play that has made Hurts special this season.
Hurts’ first half passing, going 8 for 16 for 139 yards, and two interceptions. He had overthrown and underthrown receivers. His second interception was a poorly executed overthrown ball intended for Quez Watkins. On second-and-15 at the Chicago 23, Hurts underthrew Brown in the end zone, giving Johnson time to recover and deflect the ball away.
The Eagles playing flag football instead of tackle football on Fields’ 39-yard second-quarter run—on a second-and-27 at the Eagles’ 48. Let’s count the missed tackles shall we: Reddick, who had just sacked Fields for a nine-yard loss on the previous play, missed him in the pocket when Fields ducked under him; Fields turned Edwards, who’s had a great season, into a human turnstile when he took a bad angle and overran Fields at the Eagles’ 29; nickel corner Avonte Maddox made a token effort to push Fields out of bounds and corner James Bradberry did a nice job of getting in the way and doing little else. It seemed like no one had any interest in tackling Fields on that particular play—that we will call “a group business decision” in the frigid Chicago cold. If Fields’ left big toe didn’t step out of bounds at the nine it would have been six—which it eventually was on the next play when David Montgomery went almost untouched for a 9-yard score (that’s next). It was a play a Pop Warner coach could show his kids on how not to tackle. The Fields’ run will be replayed by Eagles’ defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon more than a few times this coming week with Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott to stop next.
On Montgomery’s nine-yard touchdown run, maybe the Eagles’ defense was too tired from running around after Fields on the previous play. Edwards got kicked out by Bears’ back-up right tackle Alex Leatherwood, who first pushed Fletcher Cox out of the way to reach the second level. It created a running lane for Montgomery and if you notice closely on the replay, safety Marcus Epps took a bad angle and flailed at him with his right arm, while corner Darius “Big Play” Slay showed little resistance in getting off Byron Pringle’s block. It concluded Chicago’s 8-play, 75-yard scoring drive that absorbed 5 minutes, 3 seconds.
Slay completely losing track of Pringle on Fields’ 35-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass. It looked like Fields would take off on the first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 35, rolling right. That’s when he spotted Pringle. Slay abandoned his assignment and was coming up field to stop Fields, though Slay had plenty of help and let Pringle slip wide open behind him with 2:43 to play.
Hurts’ second interception. His passing touch was off at times in the first half. On a third-and-six at the Eagles’ 22, Hurts was looking for Quez Watkins and overthrew him. Hurts was looking for Watkins to come out of the break much faster than he did. The timing delay translated into a free pick for Chicago safety DeAndre Houston-Carson.
Miles Sanders’ third-quarter fumble, his first this season, that resulted in Montgomery’s second touchdown of the game. Sanders had the ball smacked away by the Bears’ Mike Pennel and recovered by Bears’ defensive back Kyler Gordon.
Everything about the Eagles’ first quarter. It resembled what Washington did to the Eagles in their first loss. The Eagles ran off just 7 plays to Chicago’s 21. The Eagles gained a scant 28 yards of total offense to the Bears’ 74. And above all else, the Bears seemed to have the ball the entire quarter, and they almost did, reflected in their dominant time of possession advantage: 12 minutes, 50 seconds to the Eagles’ 2:10.
On first-and-10 at the Chicago 40 on the Eagles’ first possession, Hurts had additional time (thanks in part to a Lane Johnson hold in progress) and forced a pass into coverage. Looking for Brown, Hurts tossed his fourth interception of the season when the Bears’ Gordon leaped up and grabbed an easy, and unwise pass at the Bears’ 17. Gordon was responsible for two of the Eagles’ three turnovers.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.