The Bears didn't get much production in Monday night's victory over the Eagles from the wide receivers who have gotten the majority of the playing time this season, and MVP candidate Matt Forte fumbled twice, one of which was returned for a touchdown, while the other resulted in a TD two plays later.
So how did they manage the 30-24 upset?
A big reason was wide receiver Earl Bennett, who had almost become a forgotten man while nursing a chest injury that occurred early in the second game of the season. Bennett returned vs. the Eagles with a bang, catching five passes for 95 yards, including a five-yard TD where he bear Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel to the back of the end zone. That put the Bears up 27-24 early in the fourth quarter after they had fallen behind 24-17.
Bennett, whose relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler goes back to their days at Vanderbilt picked up the slack for the other wide receivers who struggled against the Eagles. Devin Hester and Johnny Knox each caught one pass, Dane Sanzenbacher was blanked and Roy Williams contributed three catches for 46 yards.
"He's a special player," Cutler said of Bennett. "He brings a different dimension out there. He's able to catch and run after the catch, and he's got s great feel."
Forte was still magnificent despite the fumbles, his first in more than a year. He rushed 24 times for 133 yards and now has 1,241 yards from scrimmage at the halfway mark.
Hester also had disappointing kickoff returns of 18, 5 and 7 yards before leaving with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter, and Knox managed just 21 yards combined on two kickoff returns.
But Bennett, just back from a seven-week absence because of a chest injury, looked better than he ever has.
"He's a steady player who can do a lot for you," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He makes a lot of plays. He gave us a boost. When you're out for a while you're anxious to get back and show what you can do."
--The Bears' defense contained an explosive Eagles attack, especially wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, who were targeted 17 times by Michael Vick but caught a total of six passes for 79 yards.
"They make a lot of big plays," Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said of the NFL's No. 1 offense. "We wanted to make them grind it out, and we did."
The game was vindication for a Bears team that improved to 5-3.
"Our receivers were tired of hearing about (how good) their receivers were," Smith said. "We're a good football team that hasn't gotten a lot of respect. We shouldn't be an 8-point underdog when we come and play a team. Our guys took notice of that."
--Rookie Chris Conte's third NFL start Monday night was his most challenging, given the Eagles' big-play potential and deep threats DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, but the third-round pick from Cal didn't seem to be fretting about it in the days leading up to the game.
"It's awesome," Conte said of his rapid rise to the starting lineup. "It's surreal at some points, but it's fun, and I love being a part of it. Hopefully I can get to the level that these guys are at and make a few Pro Bowls and be All Pro and all that."
Conte has replaced veteran Chris Harris, who was released Oct. 27, but he's been accepted by the veteran-heavy defense.
"They've been supportive of me and helped me out," he said. "You still get the rookie treatment, but that's expected. I just roll with it, go with it and enjoy the time I'm having."
Conte came in with a good understanding of Jackson from having been teammates at Cal.
"DeSean is very naturally gifted athletic wise," Conte said. "He's on a level where it just comes easy to him."
Maclin had a 31-yard catch, and tight end Brent Celek had a 21-yard grab, but the Eagles had no other pass plays longer than 13 yards.
--Quarterback Jay Cutler compiled a 96.6 passer rating, completing 18 of 32 passes for 208 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. For the first time this season, he was not sacked.
"Our offensive line has made improvements weekly," coach Lovie Smith said. "Jay can make all the throws, and he's as good as there is once he has time, and we've been giving him that time to make the throws."
Cutler has thrown 6 TD passes and just 2 picks in the past four games, and his passer rating has been 96.9 or better in three of those games.
--MLB Brian Urlacher was all over the field against the Eagles with 11 tackles, one tackle for lost yardage and two passes defensed.
--DE Julius Peppers had the Bears' only sack, his team-high fifth, and it came just after he returned to the field after walking off slowly with an injury to the left knee that he sprained earlier in the season.
--QB Jay Cutler was not sacked for the first time this season, and he wasn't intercepted while throwing two TD passes and compiling a passer rating of 96.9.
--RB Matt Forte, despite losing two fumbles, rushed for 133 yards on 24 carries (5.5-yard average) and caught three passes for 17 yards, giving him 1,241 yards from scrimmage.
--WR Earl Bennett returned to the lineup for the first time since a chest injury in Week Two and caught a team-high five passes for a game-best 95 yards, including a five-yard TD.
REPORT CARD VS. EAGLES
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- It was evident that Jay Cutler is a better quarterback with his security blanket, third-down go-to guy Earl Bennett, who caught five passes for 95 yards after returning from a chest injury that sidelined him since early in the second game of the season. Forte also got the best protection he's had all year from an offensive line that started the same five for the third straight game and did not allow a sack for the first time all season. Cutler underthrew a couple deep balls when his receivers got behind the defense, but he completed 18 of 32 with two touchdowns and was not intercepted. Roy Williams made a solid contribution for the third straight game with three catches for 46 yards.
RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Matt Forte (133 yards on 24 carries) showed all the speed, quickness, toughness, vision and cutting ability he's demonstrated all season, but he also lost two fumbles that the Eagles turned into 14 points. The offensive line blocked well for him and for Marion Barber (31 yards on nine carries), who scored his fourth TD in the last five games despite having just 32 carries.
PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Bears only sacked Michael Vick once, but they brought enough pressure to force him into a mediocre 21-for-38 performance for 213 yards. SS Major Wright got his first NFL interception. Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson were targeted 17 times, but they combined for just six catches and 79 yards.
RUSH DEFENSE: C-plus -- A late 33-yard TD run by LeSean McCoy spoiled what would have been an excellent performance. It was still pretty solid (119 yards on 23 attempts), considering the Eagles came in as the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense. Brian Urlacher was outstanding, especially corralling McCoy on several occasions, and Lance Briggs was active as well.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- PK Robbie Gould was 3-for-3, including a 51-yarder. The Bears' return game was way below average, with a 19-yard punt return by Devin Hester its only shining moment. Hester and Johnny Knox combined to average a pathetic 10.2 yards on five kickoff returns. Corey Graham forced a DeSean Jackson fumble on a punt that Sam Hurd recovered at the Eagles' nine-yard line, leading to a touchdown. Kickoff coverage was solid.
COACHING: B -- The Bears beat a good team on the road and overcame plenty of adversity while in the process. Establishing the run from the get-go was huge, and the defensive scheme nearly eliminated the big play and forced the Eagles to grind it out, which isn't their style.
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