Rapid Reaction: Bears 31, Eagles 26

CHICAGO -- After Week 9, skeptics wondered how the Chicago Bears -- then 5-3 -- could scratch out the five additional victories it would take for them to reach the magic 10 wins required to make the playoffs.

The schedule looked tough: A road game against

Miami, and a home outing against Minnesota, followed by Sunday’s matchup at Soldier Field against the Eagles.

Three wins later, the Bears (8-3) -- after blasting the Eagles 31-26 -- are tied for the second-best record in the NFC, which could mean home-field advantage for the playoffs if the team finds a way to maintain its momentum.

But instead of going into detail about all that, let’s get into this statement victory by the Bears, who should no longer be taken lightly by national pundits. This team is for real.

What it means: The national perception of this team finally changes, because the Bears resoundingly proved themselves to be the real deal against a red-hot Eagles team that came into Soldier Field on Sunday with a three-game winning streak. More importantly, the Bears took sole possession of the NFC North lead by virtue of the win, and Green Bay’s 20-17 loss at Atlanta.

Perhaps it’s premature. But not only is Chicago eyeing a division crown, the club increased its chances of gaining home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which would be huge. The Bears are now tied with the New Orleans Saints for the second-best record in the NFC.

Game of firsts: Bears defensive tackle Matt Toeaina posted his first career sack in the opening quarter, when he dropped Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick in the first quarter for a 7-yard loss. Vick, meanwhile, threw his first interception of the season in the second quarter, which was intercepted in the end zone by Bears safety Chris Harris, who returned it 39 yards. Vick had thrown 238 passes without an INT, which was his first since Dec. 24, 2006.

The pick also set up Jay Cutler’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett with 38 seconds left in the half, leading to Chicago’s 21-13 lead at intermission.

Cutler uncorks arm: Cutler had completed only one pass for more than 30 yards headed into Sunday’s game, but through the first three quarter, the quarterback had connected on three.

Cutler hit Bennett for a 30-yard completion, and Devin Hester for gains of 34 and 39 yards. With 4:35 left in the game, Cutler had registered a passer rating of 151.5 after completing 14 of 20 for 247 yards and four touchdowns.

If he’s on your fantasy team, we hope you started him because Cutler carved up Philadelphia’s blitz, too. Against five or more rushers, Cutler completed 8-of-10 passes for 169 yards, one touchdown and 16.9 yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Cutler generated a passer rating of 152.1 against the Eagles’ five-man blitz.

Tommie Harris sighting: Defensive tackle Tommie Harris lost his starting job earlier in the season, and has logged just two starts all year. But he’s been quietly stringing together solid performances, and could find himself back in the starting lineup at some point.

Harris averted a potential touchdown pass in the second quarter, when he batted Vick’s pass intended for LeSean McCoy into the hands of Harris, who picked off the pass in the end zone. Harris hasn’t started in a game since Sept. 19 at Dallas.

Healthy Bears: Amazingly, once again, the Bears came out of Sunday’s game injury free, which bodes well about the club’s chances moving forward. Chicago is arguably the NFL's healthiest team this late in the season.

In Week 12 what team goes without listing one player on its final injury report headed into the week’s games? Chicago did just that headed into the game against the Eagles. There’s a good chance the club’s injury report stays blank this week.

Sacking Vick: By the 4:18 mark of the fourth quarter, the Bears had managed to sack Vick four times. Israel Idonije and Henry Melton registered half sacks, while Toeaina, Julius Peppers and Anthony Adams generated one apiece.

Vick played well for the most part, hitting on a 30-yard touchdown to tight end Brent Celek with 1:48 left to play to make the score 31-26 after a David Akers extra point. Vick completed 29 of 44 for 333 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 94.2.

Big day by Forte: Matt Forte rushed 14 times for 117 yards against the Eagles, which goes down as the best performance of the year by any running back against Philadelphia’s defense. Coming into the game, the Eagles were allowing an average of 73.8 yards over their last six outings.

Forte now has two 100-yard rushing performances on the season.

What’s next: The Bears, now on a four-game winning streak, travel to Detroit (2-9) to take on the struggling Lions, who are coming off a short week, having played the Patriots on Thursday.