Ground game reigns supreme

The game plan is simple. Executing it is another story. <P> The Bears host the Eagles today at Soldier Field in a matchup that has blowout written all over it. But for the Bears to have a chance, and to survive a beating, they must be able to run the football. <P> Sounds simple, but it could be easier said than done.

Thomas Jones has been spectacular thus far with 329 rushing yards, third best in the NFL. He's averaging 5.0 yards per carry and is tied for the league lead with four rushing touchdowns.

As good as Jones has been, he's got to be better. With quarterback Rex Grossman out for the season with a knee injury suffered last week against the Vikings, career backup Jonathan Quinn is now pushed into duty. The Eagle have a solid defensive front four, led by pass-rushing specialist Jevon Kearse, who had three sacks last week. Quinn isn't mobile and will be thrown into the fire against arguably the best team in the NFC.

It's no secret Jones has to take some pressure off Quinn, who hasn't started a game since November 2001.

"That always helps a quarterback's confidence when you have the running game and we will not deviate from the running game," Bears offensive coordinator Terry Shea said. "We're starting to learn who we are, and you only do that by game after game. So we're going to come at them with the run."

The Bears' offensive line has been one of the team's strengths thus far and will need to be against the Eagles. Chicago is averaging 152 yards rushing per game, fourth best in the NFL.

The Eagles, meanwhile, have standout QB and Mt. Carmel product Donovan McNabb, who is having the best season of his career. With the addition of big-play receiver Terrell Owens, the Eagles are averaging 391 yards of total offense a game. The Bears are missing six starters on defense, including star linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring). That means if Chicago can't establish a running game, it's going to be another long Sunday afternoon.

"It's very important. That's what we do," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of running the ball, and keeping the Eagles' offense off the field. "To be successful, we need to run the football. It's kind of as simple as that."

SERIES HISTORY
37th meeting. Bears lead 26-9-1, but Eagles have won four straight over the past five seasons, including a 33-19 pummeling in a divisional playoff game at Soldier Field following the Bears' 13-3 regular season

BY THE NUMBERS
Eagles are 26-7 on the road since the start of the 2000 season. The Eagles have more sacks (14), than the Bears have sack yardage (12).


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