CHICAGO — The Art Institute of Chicago didn’t deserve it, but the Eagles persevered at Soldier Field with big plays in the transition game and routine game-changing big points from Jalen Hurts to outlast the Bears 25-20.
The Dallas Cowboys couldn’t say the same, blowing a 17-point lead against Jacksonville and falling behind 40-34 in overtime on a pick-six by Dak Prescott.
That means the Eagles have a three-game lead, with three to play in the NFC East, and will secure the division and home-field advantage in the conference playoffs if they can beat the Cowboys in Dallas on Christmas Eve.
Even with a performance that Lane Johnson called a “sloppy ass game,” there were far more positives than negatives for Philadelphia, which moved to a league-best 13-1.
PASSING IN A HURRY! – Yes, part of it was Justin Fields’ ridiculously bad presence, but it’s not like the young Bears QB is the only one Philadelphia’s defense has done this to.
The Eagles had six sacks (two apiece by Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat and Javon Hargrave) and have a 55-game season, tying the franchise record of 62 in 1989. It’s the first time they’ve had five or more in three straight games. since 1997
BOSTON SCOTT AS STARTING RETURNER – After a 66-yard kickoff return against the New York Giants last week, Scott took one back 58 yards to start the second half. The short field contributed to a 42-yard TD drive that culminated in Hurts’ one-yard TD run.
DISTRIBUTION– Many fans wonder why most teams consistently hold off when they win the coin toss. You saw it on Sunday, when Philadelphia essentially sandwiched the second and third quarters with TD drives, a big key to the win.
MAN-NATURE GAME – Like most coaches, Nick Sirianni doesn’t like the term trap game, so here’s an effort to rebrand it as a man-nature game. With Dallas on the horizon on Christmas Eve and the Bears coming in with the worst record in the NFC, this was a natural place to mail it in every now and then, and the Eagles certainly did that for a long time.
JALEN HURTS THE INTENT – Hurts didn’t have his best day throwing the football, but he doesn’t have a bad game going forward, which allows the MVP candidate to make big plays even when it looks like it’s his day. Hurts has become like an ace pitcher who can get you deep into games and in position to win even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.
His deep throws to the bucket to AJ Brown, including a 68-yarder that set up Philadelphia’s final TD that proved to be the clincher, plus his three rushing TDs mean you can never let your guard down as a quarterback. , if it is Hertz. opposing QB.
BALL SAFETY – Two Hurts interceptions and Myles Sanders’ first fumble of the season put the Eagles down three on the play before Hasson Reddick recovered one (and ultimately he should get a forced fumble that Velus Jones coughed up instead of TJ Edwards). ) The early mistakes are the kind of unusual outbursts for Philadelphia that needed to happen to keep the talent-starved Bears in the game.
The Eagles led the NFL with a plus-14 turnover ratio entering the game.
THE WEATHER – Bears hibernate in this weather for a reason, and it was Chicago-level cold, which many Eagles, including Hurts, said was crazy.
Hurts used a glove before the game because he was feeling numb, but eventually ditched it. When reminded that Philadelphia can get very cold in January, Hurts simply quipped “it’s not Chicago.”
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com’s Eagles Today and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can hear John alongside legendary sportscaster Jody every morning from 8-10am live on Birds 365 on YouTube. John is also the host of his own show, Football 24/7, and a daily contributor for ESPN South Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen