The national sports spotlight will be on the Chicago Bears this coming Monday night as they face the Eagles in Philadelphia. Both teams still have playoff aspirations and need the positive momentum going forward that a win right now will provide.
After a 1-4 start, the Eagles have played much better of late and have the look of a dangerous team. Last week, for the second week in a row, the Eagles' defense held their opponent to less than 290 total yards. In that 34-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia's offense rushed for 239 yards, a season high, with no turnovers.
Although the Bears have won three of the last four meetings between the two clubs, including a 31-26 victory a year ago, Chicago's defense will need to pull out all the stops to get a win Monday night.
QB Mike Vick & RB LeSean McCoy
"A win right now is very important to us and our future momentum, coming as we are right out of bye week," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "The Eagles are a tough team to prepare for. We'll need to be applying significant up-field pressure and creating plays for our defense."
A lot of pressure will be on rookie safety Chris Conte and second-year player Major Wright, who will be starting together in the secondary for only the second time. Conte has started the last two contests and played well. Yet Philadelphia's passing attack poses a much bigger challenge than either Tampa Bay or Minnesota. Are they youngsters up to the task?
"They'd better be," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "That's where our expectations are right now."
While neither player has much experience to fall back on, Briggs believes their youth and athleticism can overcome such inexperience and should serve them well come game time.
"They definitely deserve to be there," Briggs said. "Just because you are new to the pro game doesn't mean you can't do well. If anything, the concern would be primarily in the consistency. You saw that great grab that Conte came up with in the last game. That's what we want to see. But can he sustain play like that? That's the hope. Major Wright has definitely been a positive factor so far. We want him to continue producing that heads-up type of defense."
Briggs recalled the last thing former defensive coordinator Greg Blache said to him before his first rookie start.
"It was simple, but effective. He said ‘Don't mess up.' Believe me, those few words were rattling around in my head for the entire game. It put a lot of pressure on me, and I put a lot of pressure on myself, but as far as I can remember, I did a relatively good job that day."
The way Briggs sees it, the Bears should be able to stop Vick and company if they stay true to their defensive roots.
"Great teams here in Chicago were built around the ability to stop the opponent's progress, to disrupt their offensive game plan," he said. "If we stay true to that tradition of dominance, things should turn out well. I think we are headed in that direction right now. We aren't quite there yet and we still have to peak, but I feel that good things will be coming for us."
Briggs is excited to be playing Monday Night Football in front of some of the rowdiest fans in the NFL.
"I'd say Oakland, New York and Philly have the toughest fans. I feed off of that enthusiasm," he said. "And to be the marquee game on a Monday Night? It doesn't get better than that. All your friends, the fans, your fellow players, will be tuning in to the game. There's nothing else going on then. It's center stage with a huge spotlight so you want to be out there playing at 110 percent. I can't wait to be out there."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.