CHAMPAIGN—Hugh Douglas collects comic books featuring the Incredible Hulk. Which is appropriate because if the big green guy played football, he would likely collect sacks the way Douglas does from his defensive end spot.
On Sunday, Douglas, who at 6 feet 2 inches and 280 pounds is big enough and strong enough to qualify as a hulk, colored Bears quarterback Jim Miller black and blue, wrapping him up in a dramatic, late-game, lead-protecting Bear hug.
Lennox Lewis delivered to Mike Tyson and a big reason the Philadelphia Eagles held on to defeat the Bears 19-13 at Memorial Stadium. You might say that Philadelphia McNabbed this one with its defense, though even on one of his less-than-superior days quarterback Donovan McNabb was never far from the vortex of the action. It always comes back to McNabb for the 6-2 Eagles, whose record is the mirror image of the 2-6 Bears.
Still, Douglas, an eight-year man out of little Central State of Ohio who sometimes parades through the locker room proclaiming "I'm turning green!" had two sacks among his five tackles. And on the defining hit, he flew through the air like a comic book character to squash Miller for a 9-yard loss. The play essentially crushed the Bears' last hope with 25 seconds left.
"I don't think anyone touched me," Douglas said.
At least not anyone wearing a Bears uniform.
It was no solo charge, either. The Eagles threw everyone at the Bears' line.
"All four of the defensive line came," said linebacker Ike Reese, as if reciting the guests who attended a party. "They can't leave enough men back to protect against it. You've got to get home, or you could be in trouble. We got home."
The Bears were in trouble. As they were often during the rainy, gray, cold afternoon.
"Hugh's sack was big," said Philadelphia tight end Chad Lewis. "The defense played great all day. I like being able to win games like this, with struggles."
Struggles. Stylistically, the game seemed more like a playoff game than January's 33-19 genuine postseason game between the clubs won in Chicago by the Eagles. The day was raw, the hitting was hard, and defenses dominated.
Cold? Wet? Shrug.
"It's football, man," said Eagles linebacker Shawn Barber. "You've got to go do your job."
Philadelphia repeatedly got big plays on defensestrong safety Blaine Bishop recovered a Dez White fumble after a pitchout from Millerand the unit shut down the Bears at critical points. The Bears had minus-2 yards from scrimmage in the third quarter.
"That's what I love about this defense," said Eagles free safety Brian Dawkins. "We have different guys who step up. You kind of move the glory around."
Normally, in the Eagles world it is McNabb who garners most of it.
The Mt. Carmel alumnus completed 18-of-33 passes for 209 yards, ran nine times for 46 yards and kept guiding the Eagles into the red zone, although he threw one interception and no TD passes. However, McNabb has the knack for making timely plays and inspiring teammates.
"We believe at some point in time he's going to make big plays," said Dawkins, "especially if we're in trouble."
Pick the moment when McNabb showed it. McNabb made a crisp block of Reggie Austin on a first-period running play. He scored a touchdown on a 5-yard run through a gap larger than a hole in the ozone in the second period. He eluded the Bears' rush and balletically tiptoed down the right sideline for 14 yards to set up one of David Akers' third-period field goals. And he fired a picturesque pass to wide receiver Todd Pinkston for a 39-yard completion, setting up another Akers field goal in the fourth quarter.
Yet for all of his athletic acrobaticsreal ones, not comic book exaggerationsMcNabb seemed far from satisfied.
"Well, we won the game," he said. "But I'm always critical of myself."
He's the only one.