Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has taken care of the football all season. He entered Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears only throwing three interceptions on his 388 attempts. That gave him a league-best 0.8 interception percentage.
But the Bears must have not received the memo.
On Philadelphia’s fourth play from scrimmage, Hurts took a shot toward AJ Brown. Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon was in position, backpedaled a few steps, and came away with the interception.
It was the second interception of the season for the rookie in his first game action in a month after suffering a concussion in Week 11 against the Falcons.
“[Gordon] made some good plays,” Bears’ cornerback Jaylon Johnson said of his rookie teammate, “He’s been progressing all year. It’s not surprising seeing him make those plays. He’s a ballhawk. He’s a playmaker.”
Johnson believes Gordon’s progress this season is due to his work ethic and desire to constantly get better.
“He’s always working on his craft in any way, shape or form,” Johnson said.
The Bears took the 6-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
And with momentum on their side, the secondary was able to make another big play when DeAndre Houston-Carson, who is starting in place of Eddie Jackson, picked off Hurts for the quarterback’s second interception of the game.
“Anytime you can take the ball away obviously is big. Help the team steal a couple of possessions, and we felt [Hurts] was due for a couple [interceptions],” Houston-Carson said.
Unfortunately, the Bears’ offense was not able to score off either interception, and in a five-point loss, those missed opportunities matter.
It’s something that frustrates head coach Matt Eberflus, who believes his team must be better in these “critical moments.”
“When we get takeaways, the one thing we need to do better on offense is when we do get takeaways in a short field, we got to punch it in,” Eberflus said.
However, the Bears did end up scoring after Mike Pennel Jr. knocked the ball free from Miles Sanders in the backfield for a fumble that was recovered by Gordon.
This was a crucial play. Not only did it set up the Bears in the red zone, it also gave the offense another chance to score points on a drive that started in scoring territory. It took a few plays, but the offense was able to punch it in when David Montgomery caught a pass from Justin Fields from 10 yards out. This sequence of complementary football made it a four-point game with 8:45 remaining in the third quarter.
The defense came up big again before the end of the quarter. Philadelphia started at their own 43 after Velus Jones Jr. fumbled. Hurts found Brown for a 20-yard completion on the first play of the drive, and it appeared that the Eagles were going to add to their lead.
But Jaylon Johnson had other plans.
On 4th-and-6 at the Bears’ 33, Hurts went to his favorite receiver, Brown, but was denied by Johnson who swatted the ball away and forced the turnover on downs.
Coach Eberflus liked what he saw out of Johnson, not just on that play, but throughout the game.
“[Johnson] did a really good job … [He] made a lot of competitive plays where he knocked the ball off [Brown] today,” Eberflus said. “He was very competitive.”
That pass breakup kept the Eagles from increasing their lead … and the Bears in the game.
A big reason for the Eagles’ success this season has been their ability to take care of the football. They entered the game with the league’s best turnover differential (+14).
The Bears, on the other hand, have struggled all year to force takeaways. They entered the game with only 15 turnovers forced, which ranked 17th in the NFL.
However, coming into the game, the Bears knew they were in need of forcing Philadelphia into mistakes and taking the football away. In their lone loss of the season, they turned it over four times. They only had one other game with multiple turnovers this year, which was their slim 17-16 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
The Bears’ defense should be applauded for their effort. They forced three turnovers against the team that takes care of the ball better than any other.
The unit’s performance stood out to team leader, quarterback Justin Fields, who made sure to share some kudos postgame.
“They did a great job. I told them after the game they did a great job. Big shout out to them. Coach preaches [takeaways] every day of the week. Any time we can get those takeaways, it’s going to be great for our offense,” Fields said.