The Bears have struggled producing takeaways most of the season, but that wasn't the case Sunday against the NFL's stingiest offense.
After failing to generate a takeaway in four of their previous five games, the Bears registered three in a 25-20 loss to the Eagles at Soldier Field. Philadelphia entered the contest having committed just 10 turnovers this season, fewest in the NFL.
"Defensively, we had three takeaways," said coach Matt Eberflus. "I thought that was outstanding. That's what we're more used to."
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts entered the game leading the NFL with a 22-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 0.8 interception percentage. But the Bears picked him off twice on Philadelphia's first four possessions.
First, rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon intercepted a Hurts pass intended for A.J. Brown at the Bears' 17. Later, safety DeAndre Houston-Carson picked off a Hurts pass intended for Quez Watkins and returned it 18 yards to the Philadelphia 25.
"Anytime we can take the ball away obviously it's big, help the team, steal a couple possessions," said Houston-Carson. "We felt like he was due for a couple. If he's only thrown three, then we felt like he was due for some."
In the third quarter, defensive tackle Mike Pennel Jr. stripped running back Miles Sanders from behind after a short completion. Gordon scooped up the fumble and returned it 10 yards to the Eagles' 15, setting up Justin Fields' 10-yard touchdown pass to David Montgomery that cut the deficit to 17-13.
"I just saw a screen and coach Alan [Williams] and coach Flus every day, every week are talking about punching at the ball and getting that takeaway, so really it's second nature," Pennel said.
Fields appreciated the effort from the defense.
"I told them after the game they did a great job," he said. "Big shout out to them. Coach preaches that every day of the week. Kyler with the pick, that was huge. The fumble recovery, it was huge. Anytime we can get those takeaways, it's going to be great for our offense."
While the Bears defense forced three turnovers, the unit struggled stopping the Eagles passing game. Hurts threw for 316 yards, including completions of 68, 45, 38 and 29 yards. Brown caught nine passes for 181 yards, while DeVonta Smith added five receptions for 126 yards.
"They were getting explosives," Houston-Carson said. "That was one thing we knew we had to try to take away. Credit to them, they've got great players and they made plays."
Cairo Santos missed his fifth extra point attempt of the season and second in as many games, pushing his kick wide left midway through the second quarter.
In his two previous seasons with the Bears, Santos converted 36 of 37 extra point attempts in 2020 and 27 of 28 in 2021.
"It's unfortunate that Cairo missed another extra point," Eberflus said. "We've got to get that operation squared away; have to look at the tape, see where that is.
"I think it's just execution. You look at the details of where everything is. The snap, the hold, the plant foot, all those things that we look at with detail, just look at it that way. It's just like anything else, any other skill that you're trying to do. Just got to look hard at that. We're going to continue to coach him up and Cairo is going to be fine."
Santos has made 90 percent of his field goal attempts this season, hitting 18 of 20.
Securing the ball
Rookie receiver Velus Jones Jr. committed his third turnover of the season when he fumbled on a jet sweep in the third quarter. The Bears had just entered Philadelphia territory and were trailing 17-13 at the time. It was their only turnover of the game.
"I don't like that," Eberflus said. "I don't like it. I don't like when guys lose the football. It's not good. Guys have to do a better job securing the ball.
"I'll look at the tape, but when you're in traffic, you have to have five points of pressure on the ball. That's an important piece to it."
Earlier in the season, Jones muffed two punts that resulted in turnovers.
"The other two, you have two muffed punts," Eberflus said. "It's different, not when you have the ball secured. We'll look at it.
"Again, he's got to stay encouraged. He's got to keep working and do the right things. I know he can do it right. We'll coach him to do it that way."