Eagles-Bears, Day After: Quiet, But Dangerous

On the unheralded play of Jim Schwartz's defense.

Jim Schwartz. (USA Today Sports)

Jim Schwartz. (USA Today Sports)

CHICAGO — After every game — and most practices — Jim Schwartz is nowhere to be found. He has little interest in addressing the media, and if it were up to him, he’d probably decline to speak entirely so he could focus on his defense. But through two games, Schwartz’s unit has done plenty of talking for him.

The Eagles’ defense has given up just two touchdowns this season, and they rank fourth in yards per game allowed. If not for a special teams touchdown, the Eagles would rank first in the NFL in points against. As much as Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson deserve the praise showered upon them after the Eagles’ fast start that leaves them with the best point differential in the NFL, Schwartz has given the offense considerable room for error.

The Eagles have only played the Browns and Bears, so it remains to be seen how this unit will hold up over the long haul against better offenses. They have also given up three passing plays of at least 44 yards. Still, they did hold Chicago quarterbacks to an 81.8 passer rating, and they gave up just 3.6 yards per carry on Monday night. The Birds forced three turnovers in four drives in the second half, which led to a pair of touchdowns and a 29-14 win.

“They’re playing well,” Pederson said. “The communication is great. The defensive line is rolling off the ball, getting pressure, making the quarterback move off one spot having to relocate his feet [and] putting the quarterback in different throwing positions. Then the back end is really doing a nice job in coverage. They’re just playing together as a unit. It’s not a complex system; it’s very user-friendly, so to speak. The guys have really embraced it and are playing well.”

Undrafted free agent Destiny Vaeao made one of the biggest plays of the game as he recorded a strip-sack early in the second half. The Bears, down just two points, had the ball on Philadelphia’s 43-yard-line and were close to field goal range. But Jordan Hicks recovered the fumble, marking his sixth takeaway (four fumble recoveries and two interceptions) in 10 career games.

The Eagles didn’t score any points off of the turnover, but they prevented the Bears from taking the lead, and they flipped the field position.

“It was huge,” Connor Barwin said. “That’s what turned the game, I think. That sack/fumble, at that point in the game, really kind of turned the tide.”

Two drives later, Nigel Bradham intercepted a Jay Cutler pass and returned it 28 yards to the 2-yard-line, setting up an easy touchdown on the next play. In Chicago’s next series, Bennie Logan forced a fumble around midfield, which Ron Brooks recovered. The Eagles’ offense scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive, effectively ending the game.

“We’ve been doing a tremendous job,” Bradham said. “I feel like everyone’s been doing well getting the defense down, being able to attack and dominating.”

Ron Brooks, Malcolm Jenkins and Steven Means. (USA Today Sports)

Ron Brooks, Malcolm Jenkins and Steven Means. (USA Today Sports)


To Malcolm Jenkins’ left was Ron Brooks, and to his right was Steven Means. As the national anthem started before Monday Night Football, they raised their right fists, a gesture made famous by Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medal stand in the 1968 Olympics.

“It’s a lonely feeling, but I wouldn’t change anything,” Jenkins said. “You feel like you’re out there on the edge and you understand the consequences that will come, but at the end of the day, when your heart’s in the right place, it’s easy to do.”

Jenkins, who delayed the protest a week so the message wouldn’t be misinterpreted on 9/11, talked to his friends in the Air Force to get their thoughts on his plan. After the game, he spoke to reporters at length to ensure his message was clear.

“It’s just simply to continue the conversation about social injustice and keep that relevant in the minds of America,” Jenkins said. “I think you immediately understand what the issue is when you see a black man raise his fist, you kind of know what the topic is about. I wanted to make sure that was clear and it had nothing to do with necessarily disrespecting the flag or not representing the country, but the issue is about the treatment of African Americans and minorities in this country when you talk about social injustice.”

Jenkins plans to continue his demonstration in future games, and he’s spoken to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross for weeks about how professional athletes can help bridge the divide between police and communities. He will also continue a dialogue with his teammates who are interested in doing so.

“The first part of changing anything or attacking a problem is to admit and address and come to terms that there is a problem. That’s what the main focus of this protest is to keep this issue in the minds of America. To force that agenda that this is an issue that needs to be addressed,” Jenkins said. “I think a lot of the arguments you hear is do it on your own time or do it in a different way and the truth of the matter is, if you do it in a different way, that just allows (people) to ignore the issue.

“And I think when you talk about real change, although protests in itself doesn’t change anything, they force people to talk about it and it tugs on the social conscience of the citizens. That’s the biggest thing is how do you get this topic in the minds of all those around the country and make them confront their own beliefs, confront their own thoughts and reasonings behind what they support and what they don’t? And usually to do that, you got to disrupt something.”

Jenkins also spoke with Doug Pederson about the protest, so the Eagles’ head coach would be aware of what was happening. Still, Pederson chose to name Jenkins a captain in Chicago, and according to several players and coaches, the demonstration hasn’t created any distraction for the team.

“Nothing’s changed around here, and that’s a good thing,” Jenkins said. “Nobody’s coming to me and telling me not to do things and I think they all respect where I’m coming from and like I said, things haven’t changed in our building.”




“I think he’s a good young quarterback. I said that last week before we played. … He obviously has a lot of great football ahead of him. They’re giving him a lot. They gave him a no-huddle to start the game, and I thought he handled that pretty well. They went right down the field and kicked a field goal. I thought he was pretty good.

—Bears head coach John Fox on Carson Wentz.

“Whether it’s Monday Night Football [or] Thursday morning practice, it’s going to be the same thing to him. He’s going to come out, he’s going to be poised, he’s going to make his reads [and] he’s going to make great decisions. I’m glad everybody got to see it on a national stage.”

Jordan Matthews on Wentz’s poise.

“I’m my own worst critic. I came back to the huddle and I was kind of crabbing myself, as well. Those are thing that I just got to keep working on. … That’s one thing I’m really going to have to emphasize to myself.”

—Wentz on taking too many big hits.

“I’m concerned. As a quarterback, you kind of need your right thumb. … I couldn’t really grip the ball, so that was obviously a big issue for me.”

Jay Cutler on the injury he suffered when Destiny Vaeao sacked him and forced a fumble.

“I’m fine with that. He’s a passionate guy. Everyone has a lot invested into this, and he does as well. No one likes to lose. No one likes to lose in that fashion. He’s upset. I’m upset. Everyone in that locker room is upset right now.”

—Cutler on injured Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee yelling at him after his interception.

“Eagles gonna beat that ass.”

—My Uber driver’s pre-game prediction on the way over to Soldier Field. He also hates Chip Kelly and thinks Kirk Cousins is overrated, so I’m pretty sure he’s secretly a Philadelphian.


Player# of snaps% of snaps
Brandon Brooks72100%
Lane Johnson72100%
Jason Kelce72100%
Jason Peters72100%
Carson Wentz72100%
Allen Barbre7199%
Jordan Matthews7199%
Nelson Agholor5678%
Brent Celek5374%
Darren Sproles4157%
Dorial Green-Beckham3346%
Trey Burton3143%
Ryan Mathews2129%
Matt Tobin1622%
Josh Huff1419%
Stefen Wisniewski1217%
Kenjon Barner811%
Wendell Smallwood57%
  • Carson Wentz once again benefited from playing behind the same group of offensive linemen for the entire game. Only one player — Allen Barbre — missed a single snap. But with Lane Johnson finally being suspended, the rookie quarterback will probably have to get used to a slightly different group of guys.
  • Jordan Matthews played every snap except for one now that he has a head coach who’s fine with him playing on the outside and not just the slot. Nelson Agholor (78 percent) and Dorial Green-Beckham (46 percent) were the only other receivers to play at least 20 percent of the snaps.
  • Trey Burton made an impressive impact despite playing just 43 percent of the snaps. He caught five passes for 49 yards and one touchdown.
  • Darren Sproles played the most snaps among running backs by far (57 percent), and he surprisingly led the team in carries (12). The rest of the running backs — Ryan Mathews (29 percent), Kenjon Barner (11 percent) and Wendell Smallwood (seven percent) — didn’t play much, but they also recorded multiple rushes.
  • Matt Tobin (22 percent) and Stefen Wisniewski (17 percent) played a significant number of snaps as extra blockers, but those numbers are a bit misleading as they both played a lot at the end of the game when the Eagles were just trying to run out the clock.
Player# of snaps% of snaps
Malcolm Jenkins52100%
Nolan Carroll5198%
Rodney McLeod5096%
Nigel Bradham5096%
Jalen Mills4383%
Ron Brooks4281%
Fletcher Cox4281%
Connor Barwin4179%
Jordan Hicks3975%
Brandon Graham3771%
Bennie Logan3160%
Vinny Curry2446%
Mychal Kendricks2038%
Marcus Smith1223%
Stephen Tulloch1223%
Beau Allen1121%
Steven Means713%
Destiny Vaeao713%
  • Surprisingly, Jalen Mills (83 percent) played one more snap than Ron Brooks (81 percent). Brooks got the start in base defense, although Mills rotated in opposite of Nolan Carroll when the Eagles only had two corners in the game.
  • No defensive lineman played a ton of snaps for the second week in a row. Part of that is because of Jim Schwartz’s rotation, but it’s also because the defense has been playing well and getting off of the field pretty quickly.
  • Vinny Curry (46 percent) again played the least amount of snaps among the top three defensive ends. Curry has been battling minor injuries, but it’s also due to the simple fact that Brandon Graham (71 percent) is playing very well.
  • Mychal Kendricks didn’t play many snaps (38 percent), but Stephen Tulloch (23 percent) got a boost this week.
  • Destiny Vaeao probably had the biggest impact of anyone in the game on a per-snap basis. He played just seven snaps, but he recorded a strip-sack that shifted the momentum of the game.