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Eagles ice Bears after slow start behind A.J. Brown’s career-high

CHICAGO − The Eagles might have played their ugliest game on offense this season, especially in the first half.

And that was especially true of Jalen Hurts, who threw 2 interceptions in the first half alone, or one fewer than he had through the first 13 games of the season.

But Hurts recovered somewhat and found wide receiver A.J. Brown for a 69-yard pass in the fourth quarter. That led to Hurts’ third rushing touchdown of the day, which was enough for the Eagles to hold off the Bears in their 25-20 win Sunday.

The Eagles (13-1) can clinch the NFC East title and the top seed in the NFC playoffs next Saturday with a win over the Cowboys. They lead Dallas by 3 games with 3 games remaining.

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The Eagles’ defense gave the offense a chance. Haason Reddick had 2 sacks, forced 2 fumbles and recovered another. In all, the Eagles sacked Bears quarterback Justin Fields 6 times, giving the Eagles a league-high 55 on the season.

It was a struggle for the Eagles’ offensively right from the start. Hurts threw his 2 interceptions in the first half, and Miles Sanders also fumbled away the ball, which led to the Bears’ only touchdown in the first half.

It didn’t get much better in the second half as the Eagles embarked on a 19-play drive that used up 8 minutes, 38 seconds spanning the third and fourth quarters. But the Eagles came away empty when Jake Elliott’s field goal bounced off the upright (only once, though).

The Eagles did just enough to win.

Hurts finished 22-for-37 for 315 yards and the 2 INTs. Brown had a career-high 181 yards receiving on 9 catches and DeVonta Smith finished with 126 yards on 5 catches.

But the Eagles didn’t get much out of the running game. Sanders, who came into the game with 1,068 yards rushing on the season, didn’t touch the ball until 6 minutes remained in the first half. He had just 11 carries for 42 yards.

The Bears kept it close as Fields gained 95 yards on the ground and threw for 152. Fields’ 35-yard pass to Byron Pringle with 2:43 left pulled the Bears to within 5.

The Eagles, however, ran out the clock.

But it took some effort against the 3-11 Bears.

Hurts’ 22-yard TD run with 43 seconds left in the first half, when he ran untouched on a QB draw, put the Eagles in front at 10-6.

Then the Eagles opened the second half with another touchdown drive. This time Hurts snuck the ball in from the 1, to make it 17-6.

Maybe the cold weather had something to do with the Eagles’ struggles. The game-time temperature was 18 degrees with 16 mph winds, making it feel like 4 degrees.

Reddick and the defense kept the Bears in check. He had 2 sacks, but also missed at least 2 more.

One of those misses came one play after he sacked Fields, forcing a fumble that the Bears recovered. On the next play, Reddick nearly had Fields wrapped up, but Fields escaped, broke a few tackles and gained 39 yards down to the Eagles’ 9.

David Montgomery ran the ball in on the next play, but the extra point missed.

Reddick has 12 sacks on the season. Josh Sweat also had 2 sacks, giving him a career-high 9.5 for the season. Javon Hargrave also had 2 sacks.

Hurts, meanwhile, struggled in the first half, other than on throws to Smith, who had 104 yards receiving on 3 catches. Hurts was intercepted by Kyle Gordon at the Bears’ 17 on the Eagles’ first drive. He threw another INT trying to hit Quez Watkins over the middle near midfield by DeAndre Houston Carson, who returned the ball to the Eagles’ 25.

But Reddick’s sack on 3rd-and-16 from the Eagles’ 20 forced a Bears’ punt. That set up the Eagles’ final drive of the first half. This time, Hurts took advantage.

Finally, the Eagles converted a 3rd-and-6 with less than two minutes left to ice the game, a fitting metaphor for the conditions.

Eagles’ sack party

The Eagles continued to close in on franchise sack records. They sacked Fields 6 times into the third quarter − two each by Reddick, Sweat and Hargrave. Hargrave has 10 sacks on the season, joining Reddick (12) in double digits.

As a team, the Eagles have 55 sacks on the season, 7 short of the franchise record set in 1989. It’s also the first time the Eagles have had 3 straight games of 5 or more since 1997.

Contact Martin Frank at Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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