THE MORNING AFTER: Putting late season wins in perspective

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Bears defensive back Harold Jones-Quartey intercepts a pass during the team's 26-21 win over the Buccaneers on December 27th.

TAMPA – The music wasn’t playing on the public address system, but it certainly was in this running back’s head.

Was it “Billie Jean”? Maybe “Thriller”? Perhaps “Bad”? Only Ka’Deem Carey really knows.

The running back completed his touchdown catch in the fourth quarter against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium with a kick and a gesture reminiscent of  late entertainer Michael Jackson.

It was an expression of joy during the running back’s finest afternoon as a professional running back, one in which Carey had multiple touchdowns for the first time.

“It’s been fun, definitely,”said Carey of his second year with the Bears. “Just seeing the coaches grow more trust in me and just going out there and making plays for my team. The line did their thing.

“It’s been a journey so far this year.”

Many of those days haven’t been reason to celebrate. This was one was.

A Bears over the Buccaneers 26-21 gave the Bears a sixth win of the season.

Yes, it’s OK to celebrate a win after a team is eliminated from the playoffs. It’s been a brutal three weeks for Bears fans after two gut-wrenching losses (Yes, that’s what they were even with a 6-9 record) and a blowout at the hands of the Vikings.

Plus the Bears had some things happen in this game they hadn’t the previous 14 weeks. For one there’s Carey, whose abilities on the run and catch give the Bears something else to think about when considering the re-signing of Matt Forte.

Then there’s Harold Jones-Quartey. A rookie from the University of Findlay (OH) who lost his starting job early in the season came up with a forced fumble and an interception on Sunday. Those were two of the Bears’ three turnovers which are a season high in which takeaways have been an issue.

“Listening to the old guys, watching the old guys and just taking everything they say and produce,” said Jones-Quartey of what helped get him back on the field. “I’m trying to make plays out there that will help us win.”

Oh, and Jay Cutler’s was solid again. No interceptions and just seven incompletions in 27 throws. For those keeping score, that’s 19 touchdowns to just eight picks in 2015 for the quarterback who looks like the guy again in 2016.

Speaking of next year, doesn’t a day like Sunday make you the fan feel better about what the team might be able to do? Are you ready to talk playoffs for real instead of just as a passing thought as it was in 2015?

We’ll do your best to find something in the middle. While never to be taken lightly, a late season, a no consequence win should not be a reason for overreaction.

The win didn’t come against a playoff team but rather one more on the Bears level. Like Lovie Smith’s Bucs, John Fox’s Bears are early in the rebuilding process and many moves have to be made before championship competitiveness arrives.

It’s OK to get excited about guys like Carey, Jones-Quartey or younger players but understand that one or all of them might not be back. Ryan Pace will be moving some pieces around so enjoy what you see out of some players because their last game with the Bears might be Sunday.

Plus, once again to emphasize, the win didn’t put the Bears in the playoffs. It didn’t clinch a division or home field advantage. When that’s not on the line it truly becomes a game for pride, especially for the players.

So enjoy what happened on Sunday. It hasn’t happened a lot for the Bears the last two years so it’s worth a celebration.

Just don’t jump to conclusions. A win in Raymond James Stadium is a small step, not a leap, towards the goal of a new Bears’ regime.

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