Eagles’ Defense To Face Its ‘Biggest Test’

Brandon Marshall
and Alshon Jeffery are getting the most attention heading into Sunday Night’s matchup between the Eagles and Bears. Given the talent of that receiver duo and the way the Eagles’ secondary performed in Minnesota last week, it’s certainly understandable.

But it’s clear Billy Davis‘ concerns do not stop there.

“Chicago might be one of the most talented offenses we face,” he said.  “Top five in scoring.  Big, physical Pro Bowl receivers, two of them.  They have a tight end [Martellus Bennett] who is a big, athletic passing tight end.  The running back [Matt Forte] is as rounded as any running back we’ve faced.  His pass protection is great.  He runs the ball well.  He catches out of the backfield well.

“The offensive line is young on one side, but it’s getting better and better as we go.  The quarterback [Jay Cutler] can make all the throws.  You can tell he understands this offense because his eyes are downfield and he’s getting the ball where it needs to be.  This is overall our biggest test.”

Denver might have a little something to say about that, but the offense is definitely formidable. It ranks second in the NFL in points per game (29, behind only the Bronocs); seventh in yards/game (393) and fifth in passing yards/game (276).

Marshall (1,185 yards, 10 TDs) and Jeffery (1,265 yards, 7 TDs) are two of the best receivers in the game right now. They are aware of what transpired in Minnesota last week, but Marshall says it’s no guarantee that the Bears’ receivers will find similar success.

“Some days it’s a shot glass, some days it’s a wheelbarrow,” said Marshall. “Last week Greg Jennings had a big day, but that doesn’t mean that Alshon and myself will do the same. We may get it done in the running game or on special teams, you never know, or on defense. I’m not licking my chops; this is a playoff game and those guys will give us their best shot.”

Quarterback play, of course, is always a major factor. You can make the argument that the level of QB competition played a role in the Eagles’ ability to hold their opponents to 21 points or less for nine straight weeks. Take a look at where the quarterbacks faced during that streak rank compared to the other QBs the Eagles have played this season:


Eli Manning69.733rd
Mike Glennon85.321st
Tony Romo96.68th
Terrelle Pryor6634th
Scott Tolzien66.8--
Carson Palmer 86.519th
Matthew Stafford85.820th


Phillip Rivers 106.95th
Peyton Manning 112.92nd
Alex Smith9110th
Matt Cassel90.7--

* Tolzien and Cassell have not played enough to qualify for the rankings.

Cutler ranks 12th in QB rating (89.8) with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the season. He missed four games with a high ankle sprain before returning against the Browns last week. Head coach Marc Trestman made the decision to hand the job back to Cutler despite quality play from his backup Josh McCown.

“I wasn’t adamant about it at all,” said Trestman in a conference call with the Philly media. “I made a decision after he got hurt that he was going to play as soon as he was ready to play.

“I took the best interest of the team to heart number one, not what was best for Jay or Josh but what would be the best for the team Fortunately the first week it worked out, and these things are fluid but we feel good we made the right decision, Jay’s back at quarterback and we’ll see what happens from here on in.”

Chip Kelly noted how the offense didn’t miss a beat when the starting QB went down, and credited Trestman’s system. Forte, the league’s third-leading rusher (1,200 yards) behind only LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson, had something to do with that as well.

Now Cutler is back under center as the Bears try to make a push for a playoff berth. If Davis’ defense is going to rebound, it will have to do so against one of the best units in the NFL.