Moore on the Birds: Seven games to go.
The Eagles allowed what looked like a dominating win over the Bears, a team that had lost three in a row coming into the game, to turn into a nail-biter.
Yes, if the Birds do it again in either of their next two outings — home dates with the Patriots and Seahawks following their bye — they will lose.
But we’re not going to dwell on those potential causes for concern. Rather, we’re taking more of a big-picture approach.
After dropping to 3-4 with what center Jason Kelce called “pretty embarrassing” road losses to the Vikings and Cowboys, the Eagles handled the Bills in Buffalo and defeated Chicago 22-14 Sunday afternoon at the Linc.
They are 5-4 heading into the bye. NFC East-leading Dallas is 4-3 going into Monday night’s game vs. the Giants.
“We’re still in this thing,” said defensive end Brandon Graham. “We’re sitting really good in our division.”
If they can find a way to split the next two, the Eagles have a favorable schedule to close out the season — two games against the Giants, single dates with woeful Washington and Miami, and what could be a huge meeting with the Cowboys on Dec. 22 in South Philadelphia.
“It’s definitely better than being 4 and 5,” added center Jason Kelce. “Everything we’ve wanted to do the last two games, we’ve taken care of. Obviously, we’ve still got a lot of work to do, but it’s definitely some positive momentum the last couple games to head into the bye.”
On Sunday, the Eagles established the run game early and controlled the first 2 1/2 quarters. But long drives resulted in a pair of 28-yard Jake Elliott field goals when the offense couldn’t convert in the red zone.
Speedy receiver DeSean Jackson, who returned after missing five games due to an abdomen injury, re-injured himself in the first quarter and didn’t return. His absence takes away the team’s lone legitimate deep threat.
“We’ve got to be able to stay on the field and convert,” Wentz said. “We want to be able to create some big plays again.”
An 8-play, 84-yard drive, culminating in Jordan Howard’s 13-yard touchdown run, to start the second half gave the Eagles a 19-0 lead, and a 271-9 advantage in total offense and a 19-2 bulge in first downs.
But a 53-yard deep ball from Mitchell Trubisky to wide-open receiver Taylor Gabriel set the stage for Chicago’s first TD. The Birds’ offense managed just two first downs on the next three possessions, with the Bears scoring again to make it 19-14.
“For us on the sideline, just because we’re up 19-0 doesn’t mean we threw in the towel or were done with the game,” said right guard Brandon Brooks. “Honestly, we should’ve never allowed them to get back into the game. When you’re up on a team like that, we got to close the game. We got to finish.”
The Eagles’ defense got a stop, then the offense ate up 8:14 with a 16-play, 69-yard drive that featured a swing pass to rookie Miles Sanders and tight end screen to Dallas Goedert for big first downs. The offense converted four third downs on the drive.
Elliott’s third field goal increased the lead to eight, then a muffed kickoff allowed the Birds to seal the deal.
Brooks said the Bears started shifting their defensive line prior to the snap in the second half, which required some adjustments that took some time.
“You always wish you had a better record (than 5-4),” Brooks said. “Definitely happy with the win, but we left points and games out there.”
The Birds have seven more games. Win six, including Dallas, and there’s a strong chance they’ll reclaim the NFC East with an 11-5 record. Win five and they’re going to need the ‘Boys to lose two games plus the showdown with the Eagles.
“We’ve got our work cut out,” said right tackle Lane Johnson. “The second half of the season is when you make your hay. We know what’s coming. We need to get healthy, get our guys back and look forward.”
The Eagles were far from perfect Sunday, but they gave themselves a decent shot to make it happen. That’s what matters the most.
Tom Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org; @TomMoorePhilly