Bears mix celebrating, focusing on unfinished business after securing division title
The locker room where #Clubdub was born and the first NFC North title since 2010 was returned Sunday was relatively business-like by the time the media was welcomed in following the Bears’ division-clinching 24-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
Make no mistake, the disco ball had just stopped spinning again, with rookie left guard James Daniels this week’s DJ choosing the Bears’ celebration tunes. But according to Tarik Cohen, this incarnation of #Clubdub wasn’t the best of the first 10.
“Top 5,” he said.
It’s almost as if these Bears expected to be where they are, 10-4 division champions with the NFL’s fiercest defense and an offense that continues slowly learning how to fly. It’s as though rookie head coach Matt Nagy’s unrelenting energy and aggressiveness and the masterful offseason execution by Ryan Pace has had their team believing this was its fate for some time.
“That’s our expectation here,” said Danny Trevathan, who chipped in four tackles on a defense that held the Packers to only 323 yards, including 122 in the first 30 minutes. “Coach makes us think, if you’re not ready to finish playing, get up out of there because we’re not done yet.”
Lest we forget, Trevathan went from a Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos following the 2015 season to winning eight combined games in his first two years with the Bears, a span mirroring Akiem Hicks’ stint in Chicago.
Trevathan, while cherishing his new Bears NFC North champions hat — “It fits great. I’m not ready to take this off yet,” he said — was able to articulate his feelings a bit better than Hicks, who got emotional before cutting his interview short at a little under three minutes.
“I don’t know what I’m talking about, guys, we won the NFC North,” Hicks said. “I want to go home. I love you all. I love the city of Chicago. I’ll catch y’all on the back end.”
However, the fact that the Bears beat the same team that they let off the ropes in the opener wasn’t lost on Hicks.
“How special is that?” he said. “I’m not going sit here and lie to you guys and say I didn’t enjoy taking it. Green Bay is not our friend. We have nothing in common. We want to beat them as many times as we can, whenever we can. So I loved it.”
It’s a long season, and no Bears singled out the loss to the Packers in Week 1, when they blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead, as its turning point. Instead, several cited the stretch in Weeks 10-12, when the Bears earned three division wins in 12 days, as the juncture when they realized this outcome was truly in their sights.
“I would say that [point], that’s where we all believed that it’s going to be hard to beat us, we’re taking strides,” said Prince Amukamara, who recorded his 11th PBU of the season Sunday. “I’m sure some of the guys had that game in the back of their head. But I think the pressure, the experience that we had over this season, I really believe that helped us be successful.”
Amukamara did look back even past the Packers loss to the offseason, as the point when the Bears first started laying the seeds of a division winner. He credited the “continuity” Pace was able to maintain on defense, which of course included re-signing him and fellow cornerback Kyle Fuller to lucrative extensions. And he said the Bears clearly did their “homework” in assembling the right group of players and coaches.
“I don’t want to say they’re bringing a fun culture, but it’s just more … I want to use the word swag,” Amukamara said. “They’re just going a great job with just creating a culture that caters to its players. It’s not like public school, but it’s not like private school. It’s just in the middle where we have enough boundaries to kind of be who we are.”
Nagy, or “Swaggy” as many of his players call him, told them afterward that finishing off the Packers this time around, including holding Green Bay to six plays for minus-eight yards on the two series after a 14-3 cushion devolved to 14-all, was the difference Sunday.
“A whole lot of babooms,” Cohen joked in recalling Nagy’s trademark hype cheer that preceded his message. “He just told us that he loved the way we finish. We were in the same situation in the first game with them, and this one turned out different because we finished.”
For all of the talk of finishing the Packers on Sunday, there was everybody bit as much about the Bears’ magical ride only just beginning. The Dallas Cowboys’ loss Sunday to the Indianapolis Colts means the Bears can lock up the conference’s No. 3 seed as soon as next Sunday, perhaps even setting up a situation where they can rest in the regular-season finale in Minnesota prior to a likely wild-card weekend rematch with the Vikings.
Rest, perhaps, but rest assured these Bears aren’t resting on their laurels.
“Our best ball has not been played,” Trevathan said. “We still have a lot more to do for this city and for this team. We’ve been here for a long time. I think it’s time we reap what we deserve. We’re putting in that work. Let’s go out and get what’s ours.”