As the Philadelphia Eagles defense inflicted plenty of damage last week, the offense suffered some of its own.
With Brian Westbrook’s status uncertain and Donovan McNabb at less than full strength, Philadelphia may be forced to rely on its defense again Sunday night at Soldier Field when it tries to deal the Chicago Bears a third straight loss.
Westbrook, who led the league with a franchise-record 2,104 total yards last season, has a strained ankle that has kept him out of practice this week. An MRI revealed no ligament damage, and the All-Pro has said he plans to play Sunday, though the team isn’t so sure.
“We’ll see how he does here, over the next couple days,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said Friday. “I mentioned before that it’s going to go right to the wire there.”
The Eagles, though, are likely to be cautious with Westbrook, considering injuries have forced him to miss at least one game in each of his previous six NFL seasons.
McNabb has missed significant time each of the last three years, so Philadelphia (2-1) is used to keeping a close eye on his health. The five-time Pro Bowler, however, has been solid this season and is expected to play despite a chest contusion which forced him to briefly leave last Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh.
McNabb, who like Westbrook is listed as questionable, returned to practice on Friday and was able to make all the necessary throws.
“During the practice, he felt good,” Reid said.
Westbrook missing much of last week’s game and McNabb failing to get much going offensively in the second half did not seem to matter because the defense dominated, recording nine sacks with a safety and three forced turnovers in a 15-6 win.
In their two victories, the Eagles have totaled 13 sacks while allowing 346 total yards and nine points. In a 41-37 loss to Dallas in Week 2, they gave up 380 yards and failed to sack Tony Romo.
“Sometimes you get that feeling defensively and say, ‘You know what, I don’t care what they do. We’re going to get loose and stay loose and they are not getting into this end zone,’” Eagles safety Brian Dawkins said.
An injured Dawkins missed last year’s game against Chicago as the Eagles were dealt a heartbreaking home loss, 19-16 on Brian Griese’s touchdown pass with nine seconds remaining to cap a 97-yard drive.
Griese was the one providing the Bears (1-2) with heartbreak last Sunday. He rallied Tampa Bay from a 10-point deficit in the final 3:11, throwing a tying touchdown pass with seven seconds left, and engineered a 90-yard drive in overtime that sent Chicago to a 27-24 defeat.
Since a surprising road win over Indianapolis in their season opener, the Bears have blown double-digit leads in the second half to lose their last two games. They were up 17-3 midway through the third quarter in Week 2, only to lose 20-17 at Carolina on a TD with 3:52 remaining.
“It’s frustrating, but also there are positives in that you see the potential that we have,” defensive tackle Tommie Harris told the team’s official Web site. “We’re not just getting blown out. But most teams are finding ways to win and it seems like we’re finding ways to lose, to let people come back in, and we have to get out of the slump that we’re in.”
Looking to spoil McNabb’s return to his hometown, the Bears pass defense could face another busy day considering the Eagles’ penchant for throwing the ball, not to mention Westbrook might be out or limited. Chicago faced 67 pass attempts from Griese last week, making three interceptions but allowing him to throw for 407 yards.
“We need to clean up a lot of things,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We can’t make some of the mistakes we’re making right now.”
The Bears run defense is among the league’s best, allowing 71.3 yards per game and 3.4 per carry, but none has been better than the Eagles. They’re holding opponents to 45.7 rushing yards per contest and 2.4 per attempt.
Rookie Matt Forte will try to break through against that unit and continue his solid start to the season. He’s rushed for at least 89 yards in all three games, is second in the league with 409 yards from scrimmage and tied for the team lead with 13 receptions.
McNabb and the Eagles are playing in the quarterback’s native Chicago for the first time since Oct. 3, 2004, when he threw for 237 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ 19-9 victory. Westbrook had 182 yards from scrimmage.
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