The Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears have played each other in each of the last four seasons. Each game has been decided by five points or less and the Eagles are 1-3 in those four games.
However, perhaps the most stunning of the three losses in recent years took place the last time the Bears visited Lincoln Financial Field.
The year was 2007 and the Eagles were coming off a playoff season in 2006 (better known as Jeff Garcia’s “Hey Philadelphia: Merry Christmas!” year). The Eagles were struggling with one of their notorious slow starts under Andy Reid and came into the game against Chicago with a 2-3 record.
The team was flat and looking for a spark to get their season going. They were having trouble scoring in the red zone (sound familiar?) where they had scored only five touchdowns in 19 trips.
This game turned out to more of the same as it was a battle of field goals until the fourth quarter. However, this is when the game started to get interesting.
With the score tied at 9-9, the Bears lined up at mid-field with quarterback Brian Griese in the shotgun formation. The ball was snapped and sailed through Griese’s legs and rolled all the way down to the Bears’ seven yard line.
Safety Sean Considine was blitzing on the play and chased down the ball and recovered it for the Eagles. The fans were roaring with excitement as it seemed this was the Eagles’ chance to break the game wide open.
However, the officials stepped in and quickly turned the exuberant celebration into an anger-filled boo-fest.
The referees ruled that, since the ball was never touched by Brian Griese, the play was a false start and not a fumble (or loose ball). This, in fact, was the correct ruling by the officials according to the rule book at the time but it did not go over well in Philadelphia.
So, instead of first and goal for the Eagles, it was first and 15 for the Bears.
That play led to a change in the rules for the following season and is now ruled as a live ball. Although, that is little consolation for Eagles fans as it didn’t help them that day. That idiotic rule directly altered the outcome of the game.
To make matters worse, the Bears went on to score their fourth field goal on that drive to take a 12-9 lead. Even after that, though, the Eagles still had a chance to win the game.
They were trailing 12-9 when Donovan McNabb and the offense took over at their 26 yard line with nine minutes and 14 seconds left in the game. A 23-yard pass on third down from McNabb to wide receiver Kevin Curtis on third down got the drive going.
However, McNabb followed that up by throwing two short incomplete passes and suddenly the Eagles were going to face a third and 10. But luckily, there was a defensive pass interference call that gave them a first down at the Bears’ 39 yard line.
They drove down to the Bears’ 13 yard line and at about the five minute-mark, McNabb hit tight end Matt Schoebel over the middle for the game’s first touchdown. The Eagles took the lead 16-12 and with the way things were going, it looked like that would be enough to win.
On the ensuing kickoff, David Akers kicked it short and the Bears ended up with good field position at their 40 yard line with four minutes and 52 seconds left on the clock. Eagles fans had that familiar “it figures” feeling after finally scoring to take the lead only to follow it up with a bad special teams play.
However, the defense held as the Bears were flagged for holding to push them back 10 yards and then defensive end Trent Cole came up with a big third-down sack.
The Eagles’ offense got the ball back with four minutes and two seconds left in the game. A big McNabb scramble on third down gave the Eagles a big first down and would force the Bears to use the rest of their timeouts.
The Bears’ defense then stopped the Eagles and forced a punt. Punter Sav Rocca came up with a nice punt and pinned the Bears at their three yard line with one minute and 52 seconds left in the game.
The Bears had no timeouts left, needed a touchdown and were 97 yards away from the end zone. The Eagles’ defense had kept the Bears out of the end zone all day and everyone pretty much thought they’d stop them one more time to end the game.
However, what nobody knew was that Joe Montana snuck into Lincoln Financial Field and slipped on a Brian Griese jersey to lead one of his historic last minute comebacks.
The crowd watched in disbelief as Griese systematically drove the Bears the entire length of the field while completing passes to five different receivers. The big play was a third down pass to Bernard Berrian for 25 yards.
The winning drive culminated in a 15 yard scoring strike to wide receiver Mushin Muhammad with only 15 seconds left on the clock. The Philly crowd was stunned.
Nobody could believe that the Eagles defense would allow something like that to happen. Especially against Brian Griese. Brian stinkin’ Griese for cryin’ out loud!
The Eagles would lose 19-16 and drop their record to 2-4 on the season. They would never fully recover and went on to finish a disappointing 8-8 for the year.
This week’s game against the Bears could be a similar scenario in that a loss might cripple the Eagles’ season from which they would not recover. Hopefully, the Eagles instead get the win that spurs them towards a great run to the playoffs.
At the least, if we see a ball snapped through Jay Cutler’s legs and the Eagles recover, it will be their ball.