The Bears haven't been the same since they were pushed around in the playoffs by the Philadelphia Eagles on a cold January night at Soldier Field.
The Eagles, on the other hand, have been rolling since. They're 5-2, compared to the Bears' 2-5, and they're actually better since the last time the two teams played.
Donovan McNabb to Illinois' Memorial Stadium, a place where he could've--should've--spent his college career. Instead, Illinois wanted him to play running back or wide receiver. He went to Syracuse to play his position of choice and now he's one of the best quarterback's in the league.
In case this game gets ugly, you can always flip to ESPN for live coverage of the PBA's Miller High Life Open. That's bowling, folks, live from Vernon Hills, Ill. Bring it.
OK, football soon. Let's see if the Bears can surpass the Bulls' win total.
A light rain is falling in Champaign as the Ahmad Merritt fields the opening kickoff for the Bears. ... The angry e-mail is arriving in record time. The Bears haven't even run a play yet and people already are cursing John Shoop. ... Jim Miller, starting for the first time in two weeks, dumps a low pass that Anthony Thomas can't handle. ... Thomas makes a nice run, breaking outside but short of the first down. ... A third-down pass to Booker falls short. Stat of the day: The Bears have punted on every opening series this year, this one included.
McNabb takes a two-step drop and fires a short, sideline pass to Duce Staley, who picks up four yards. ... Staley is stuffed for a loss on second down, bringing up third and 7. ... McNabb hits former Packer Antonio Freeman for the first down. Rosevelt Colvin was in there but couldn't get to McNabb in time. ... Staley dives for a couple. ... James Thrash takes a reverse and a lead block from McNabb and picks up the Eagles' second first down of the drive. ... Side note: Cornerback R.W. McQuarters started today. His partner, Jerry Azumah, is being checked on the sideline. ... McNabb is sacked for a big loss by Phillip Daniels and Brian Urlacher, bringing up third and 17. ... McNabb scrambles, avoids a blitzing Mike Green and unloads out of bounds. He's called for passing beyond the line of scrimmage and the Eagles will punt. Oh, my! It's Sean Landeta! He's like the Jesse Orosco of punters. Landeta has to be the only active player who played during the Bears' Super Bowl season. Outside of Steve Fuller, of course. As we all now, he whiffed on a punt in Soldier Field's north end zone in the '85 playoffs.
OK, back to reality. The Bears start at their own 22. Leon Johnson runs twice and picks up the first down. The Bears are going with the no-huddle offense. ... Miller hits Booker twice underneath but he's short of the first. Third and short. Azumah has gone to the locker room. ... Johnson is stuffed and the Bears will punt again.
Big Keith Traylor flops across the line onto McNabb, but McNabb still manages to loft a sweet pass to Todd Pinkston over Todd McMillon, who's in for Azumah. Azumah has a bruised left leg. ... Rookie Brian Westbrook runs for a few. ... On third down the Bears sack McNabb but Daniels is called for a 15-yard face mask penalty. The penalty gives the Eagles a first down and moves them past midfield. ... McNabb throws an incompletion and then has a pass tipped by rookie Alex Brown. Hey, the Bears' defense has shown up. Third and 10 and the crowd gets into it. ... McNabb rifles one over the middle for Freeman but he can't hang on. Here's our guy Landeta ... and he pulls something ripe for the NFL Films follies package. He drops the snap and then takes a blind kick at the ball as it rolls on the ground. You can't do that. First down Bears at their own 49. I'm not going to say I called that by Landeta, but...
Stanley Pritchett catches a short pass out of the backfield and picks up about five. ... Johnson runs outside and is tackled short of the first down. ... Third and 2 and the Eagles jumped in the neutral zone, giving the Bears a first. ... Miller lofts one behind Fred Baxter, but the rookie Marc Colombo is called for a personal foul. Colombo threw to the ground Hugh Douglas, the guy who knocked Jim Miller out of that playoff game, and then speared him. ... Miller throws incomplete, bringing up third and 25. ... Oh, chicanery by the Bears. Booker lines up at quarterback and lofts a pass about 60 yards across the field to Marcus Robinson, who's doubled covered. Robinson leaps and nearly makes the catch.
OK, clearly Shoop has changed some things on offense. But is a no-huddle offense and a receiver throwing passes what's needed?
From their own 28, the Eagles run Staley right for a couple. ... McNabb drills one up the middle to Thrash and Mike Green is called for illegal contact. Another penalty. ... Thrash takes an end around but is brought down by Azumah, who obviously is back in the game. ... McNabb is pressured again, throws incomplete and another flag. The ref explains "there is no flag for holding on the play." Huh? Anyway, third and 6 and McNabb is sacked but now Reggie Austin is called for holding. Penalties are killing the Bears' defense. ... Westbrook runs right and is dragged down by Urlacher in the backfield. And, yes, another flag. Illegal shift on the Eagles this time. The Bears decline and it's second and 14. ... Westbrook runs for not much as the first quarter ends.
McNabb throws incomplete and again our guy Landeta trots on. He makes solid contact this time and Johnson fields it at the 17 and goes nowhere.
Thomas is back and runs up the middle for a first down. Big hole, nice run. ... After a short run by Thomas, Miller lofts one to Pritchett who takes a hard hit but holds on for the first. ... Thomas cuts the corner for five and the Eagles are called for taunting, which tacks 15 yards onto the run. Do you think we could have a few more penalties called this season? ... Thomas hits the corner again, but is stuffed. ... Miller hits Thomas on a short dump and Thomas is making people miss, stutter steps and is brought down at the 10. Of course, the Bears are called for holding, so scratch all that. ... So it's second and 1 and Thomas dives for a first at the 21. ... Pritchett catches a pass out of the backfield and picks up four yards. ... Thomas takes a pitch and runs left. He's about two yards short. ... Third and 2 and Merritt drops a screen pass. Edinger squeezes a 30-yard field goal inside the left upright. That was close.
Bears 3, Eagles 0
The Eagles take over at their own 24 as Staley dives for a couple. And, hey, another personal foul penalty on the Bears. Love the penalties. ... Second and 7 at the 46, McNabb takes off up the middle and is brought down from behind by Green after a nine-yard pickup. ... Staley runs for nine and then picks up the first with a short plunge. ... Staley tries to turn the corner but Urlacher drags him down. ... On second and 5, McNabb scrambles for a few and--oh, boy--the Bears are called for illegal contact. First down Eagles at the 15. ... Big Ol' Ernest Grant stuffs Staley on first down. No penalty on the Bears. ... McNabb guns one to Thrash, covered by McQuarters. No flag. Wait. Late flag. Interference on McQuarters. Absolutely horrible call. It's got to be said. Dick Stockton is letting the refs have it. ... So first and goal on the 5 and McNabb throws it out of the end zone. He keeps it himself on second down and runs for a touchdown.
Eagles 7, Bears 3