It’s incredible to think the Chicago Bears are in this position. Not even because of their history. One that includes no winning seasons since 2012 or trips to the playoffs since 2010. No, what’s hard to believe is how this team somehow managed to recover from what happened on opening night. The first game Matt Nagy ever coached.
For those who don’t remember, or had their minds subconsciously block out. Here’s a refresher. The Bears went into Green Bay and delivered an early punch to the Packers in the form of a 20-0 lead at halftime. They remained up 23-3 going into the 4th quarter and on their way to a big win. Then Aaron Rodgers happened.
In the final 15 minutes, he threw three touchdown passes, stunning the Bears and delivering yet another brutal punch to the gut for fans in a 24-23 comeback win. It was a harrowing moment for the young coach. How in the world does he get this team, one haunted by Rodgers for so many years, to move past such a loss and stay focused on the future?
Matt Nagy delivered soulsearching speech that kept Bears afloat
Peter King of NBC Sports caught up with Nagy to talk about the season and how it’s progressed. The first thing that came up was that loss. The 40-year old coach explained how it impacted not only his team but he himself. Even though he had no history with the rivalry, he felt that loss more than almost any other in his football career.
Yet his job wasn’t to mope about it. His job was to find a way to convince the team that they can and would get over it. How did he do that?
“Ninety-eight days ago,” Chicago coach Matt Nagy said over the phone Sunday night.
Hmmmm. What happened three months ago or so?
“That’s the night we lost in Green Bay…
…I will remember that night for the rest of my life,” Nagy said. “I will remember the look in those players’ eyes. I looked at those 50 guys and told them, ‘This is happening for a reason. You’re not gonna trust me right now, but this is a long season, and we’re only at Week 1 right now, and we’ll be okay.’ I wanted them to feel it for six hours, and then, next morning, to walk in with a smile on their faces.”
Suffice to say his message got through. The Bears won their next three games. Things settled down after that and the team went into Sunday with a 9-4 record with a chance to clinch the NFC North. So it was fitting that the Packers would be the ones standing in the way. Chicago had not beaten them in this sort of scenario for over a decade.
It looked like the same movie was playing over again when the Bears went up 14-3 at halftime only to see Green Bay tie it 11 minutes into the second half. This time though, it would be different. Led by Mitch Trubisky and that superb defense, the team fired back with 10 points of their own and held off one last surge by Rodgers to clinch the game 24-17.
It was a beautiful story of redemption for the team and a fulfillment of Nagy’s promise.