The Eagles had their chances in a 31-26 loss to the Bears in Chicago today, but consistently failed to convert in the red zone after falling behind 14-3. Philadelphia scored just one touchdown in five red zone trips today, matching the numbers from last week against New York.
Michael Vick had a shaky day, completing 29-of-44 passes for 333 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception, his first as an Eagle. Vick also put the ball on the ground four times, but Philadelphia recovered all of them.
“I hate to lose,” Vick said. “It makes me sick, it makes me ill, but we’re not going to win every game and I know that but we’re definitely going to win more than we lose.”
The most costly red zone play turned the tide late in the first half, when the Eagles had momentum. After falling behind 14-3 on touchdown passes from Jay Cutler to Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox, Michael Vick found Jeremy Maclin for an 8-yard touchdown and orchestrated a field goal drive to bring the Birds to within one at 14-13.
On the first play after the two-minute warning, the Eagles had second and goal from the 4-yardline, but Vick’s pass for Maclin was tipped and intercepted by Chris Harris. The Bears drove down the field for another touchdown from Cutler to Bennett and took a 21-13 lead into the half.
“Obviously we have to do a better job in the red zone on both accounts,” said head coach Andy Reid. “You can’t have a team with that caliber with their back to the wall and have an interception take place, miss protection and so on. You can’t do that and expect to come out on top.”
“I had a lot of options on that play and I could have went strong side to Brent Celek, I went backside,” Vick said. “I could have pulled it down and ran it. [I could have done] so many things other than the turnover. I solely take responsibility for that. I have to be better in the red zone, have to get better in our red zone efficiency and get more touchdowns than field goals.
“That interception was just deflating to us as a team. When you have an opportunity to go up, whether it’s by six points or by two, if we get a field goal, then you’re up and momentum swings back your way. You have an interception and it just changes the momentum of the game.”
The Eagles also struggled mightily on the defensive side of the ball, with Matt Forte running wild against a defense that had improved a lot against the run since the fourth game of the season. Forte sprung a 61-yard run on the Bears’ second drive of the game, by far the longest against the Eagles defense this year. The previous long was a 33-yard run by the Lions’ Jahvid Best in week two.
Forte ended up with 117 yards on 14 carries, taking the pressure off of Cutler who went on to have his best afternoon as a Bear. Cutler completed 14-of-21 passes for 247 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Eagles were without cornerback Asante Samuel, who leads the league in interceptions, and Joselio Hanson was left filling in. Hanson was targeted on both of the Bears first two touchdowns. Nevertheless, Reid wouldn’t use the injury as an excuse.
“Doesn’t matter,” Reid said. “Next guy comes in; he’s got to play. Listen, my hats off to [Jay Cutler], but we’ve got to play better.”
After taking the 21-13 lead into halftime, Cutler came out firing in the third quarter, hitting Greg Olsen for a 9-yard strike to make it 28-13 on the third play from scrimmage in the second half.
After a three-and-out by Philadelphia, the Bears used a 17-play, 83-yard drive to chew up 10:05 and set up a 23-yard field goal by Robbie Gould. Chicago took a 31-13 lead into the fourth quarter, and the Eagles tried to mount a comeback but began settling for field goals.
With 6:23 left, down 31-16, Vick hit DeSean Jackson falling into the end zone, but Jackson ducked under a potential hit and dropped the pass and the Birds ended up kicking a field goal instead, cutting the lead to 31-19.
“[DeSean Jackson] just can’t get frustrated,” Vick said. “He has to understand that they’re professionals on the other side of the ball too.”
Vick and company went to work when they got the ball back with 4:18 remaining, moving the ball quickly with short passes over the middle of the field until Vick found Brent Celek for a 30-yard touchdown with a beautiful pass into coverage. Philadelphia found itself down just five with 1:48 left, but couldn’t recover an onside kick and fell 31-26.
Follow Ryan Messick on Twitter.