PHILADELPHIA -- The only thing missing from the final two minutes of the first half of the "Monday Night Football" matchup between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles was circus music. A first half that had featured tough defense, ugly injuries and more than a few troubling signs for the home team, degenerated into a penalty-and-fumble-fest that gave each team a free touchdown and the Bears a 17-10 halftime lead.
Things seemed to be turning the Eagles' way in those final two minutes when Bears running back Matt Forte fumbled on third down and Eagles linebacker Brian Rolle ran the ball back 22 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 10-10. And in spite of consecutive offside penalties that gave the Bears a first down without any time running off the clock, the Eagles managed to force a punt with a little more than a minute left. But DeSean Jackson fumbled the punt, giving the Bears the ball in the red zone. And after the Eagles appeared to force a three-and-out and a field-goal attempt, Jason Babin was flagged for roughing the passer, and the Bears converted their fresh chance with a Marion Barber touchdown.
It was a poor ending for the Eagles to a topsy-turvy half that began with some discouraging reminders of things that went wrong during their four-game losing streak. The Bears' opening drive, on which Forte alone gained 52 of the 79 yards, recalled a couple of early-season games in which the Eagles' run defense looked soft and vulnerable. And once the Eagles had the ball, quarterback Michael Vick looked shaky in his decision-making, throwing one bad interception and nearly throwing another as he seemed to be trying to force the ball into tight spots. Eight days after looking smooth, efficient and responsible in a dominating victory over the Cowboys, the Eagles' offense had a hard time getting anything going against a fired-up and rested Bears front line.
But with Bears defensive lineman Julius Peppers off the field for a few plays, Vick was able to move the Eagles down the field and into field goal range just before the two-minute warning. Alex Henery barely made the 47-yard field goal.
After that first drive, the Eagles do seem to have shored some things up on their run defense and have managed to keep Forte more or less bottled up. The question is whether they can start playing smarter football and get back the momentum. Starting safety Nate Allen is out of the game with a concussion, forcing rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett into a larger role in the secondary, and the Bears should be able to take some shots downfield as a result. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler looks excited to have receiver Earl Bennett back from injury, and is looking his way a lot on third down.
The Eagles also lost cornerback Asante Samuel for a time with ... oh, man, it hurts just to type this ... a "groin laceration." But Samuel returned to the game in the first half's final minutes and seems to have recovered. The Eagles' biggest issue Monday nigh is, once again, their own silly mistakes. We'll see if they can cut those down in the second half.