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Eagles, Bears set for slugfest

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CHICAGO — Ask anyone about the last time the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles met in the playoffs, and their memories will probably be foggy.

Real foggy.

The Bears beat the Eagles 20-12 on Dec. 31, 1988, but the details, well, they're really anybody's guess. Just before halftime that day, a dense fog rolled in off Lake Michigan.

Know the kind of fog that makes drivers flip on their low beams and creep along the roads at 15 mph?

The "Fog Bowl" was worse.

"We got great seats at the 16-yard line, and I was fired up to see it, my first NFL game," said Eagles special teams coach John Harbaugh, whose brother Jim played for the Bears in 1988.

"I saw whiteness from the goalpost out. It was the coldest day ever. It was a wet, bone-chilling cold. It was pretty miserable actually."

Visibility was so bad — 15 to 20 yards, at most — that even the players couldn't tell what was happening. One said he could tell what happened on a play only by listening to the cheers of the crowd.

"The fog was so bad that I was waiting for Boris Karloff to come out of the stands," Bears guard Tom Thayer joked then.

But unless fans at Soldier Field were sitting near the field, they couldn't see the game, either. The P.A. announcer had to get play-by-play from someone on the field with a walkie-talkie. A CBS helicopter that was supposed to provide overhead shots was grounded, and the national TV audience saw only field-level shots.

"I think the Eagles got the ball inside the 20 like 11 times and couldn't score," Harbaugh said. "I don't think they could see the end zone probably."

Actually, the Eagles were in Bears territory 12 times, eight times inside the 30, but came away with only four field goals.

"The Bears' defense was playing really well and everybody here knows that the Philadelphia defense was pretty good," said current Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who was a 12-year-old Bears fan when the Fog Bowl was played.

"It's going to be the same kind of game again," the Chicago native added. "It'll be a playoff game, but it'll be fun."

And probably a lot clearer. Forecasts for Saturday afternoon's game between the Bears (13-3) and Eagles (12-5) call for mostly cloudy skies, with highs in the 20s. Winds of up to 10 mph are expected.

Now, just because there's no fog doesn't mean the Bears and Eagles are in for an easy day. Far from it. Chicago got its first significant snowfall this week, which means the grass at Soldier Field will probably be on the mushy side.

And once the sun goes down, it'll harden up fast.

"I think we definitely have the advantage playing on this kind of field," Bears offensive tackle James "Big Cat" Williams said. "It's going to be slippery. It's going to be slick. Depending on how cold it gets, it could be hard. It could be like playing out there on the parking lot.

"They're not going to be used to playing on this," he added. "They always have turf in the cold. It'll be good for us."

Not that the Eagles are weather wimps. But cold weather and a sloppy field means both teams will have to rely more on their running games — exactly what the defenses want.

Defense has carried both Chicago and Philadelphia this year. The Bears gave up a league-best 203 points during the regular season, while the Eagles weren't far behind, allowing 208 points.

The Eagles have one of the best mobile quarterbacks in McNabb, but ask Daunte Culpepper if speedy QBs bother the Bears.

"That's going to be the key for us, to shut down the run," massive tackle Ted Washington said. "After that, we're going to try and get after the quarterback."

The Eagles were right behind the Bears with 208 points allowed. But theirs is a different style of defense. While the Bears plant Washington and fellow big man Keith Traylor in the middle, giving Brian Urlacher freedom to roam, Philadelphia relies more on blitzes.

With hard-rushing end Hugh Douglas, who made 9 1/2 this season, and a strong secondary that includes Troy Vincent and Brian Dawkins, the Eagles' defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in three playoff games over the last two years.

"It's going to be a physical ball game," Eagles defensive tackle Corey Simon said. "To be competitive at this level, you have to see this as a challenge."

Washington agreed. Fog or no fog, this has the makings of a good, old-fashioned tackle football game.

"We're going to have to really gear up and get at it," he said. "That's where it's going to be won."