After 8 complicated years, clinching the NFC North is within reach for the Bears
LAKE FOREST – There was the end of the Lovie Smith era, the hiring of Marc Trestman over others like Bruce Arians, the blown coverage in the 2013 finale.
That was followed by Jay Cutler’s long-term contract, 42 first half points vs Packers, Trestman’s firing, John Fox’s hiring, a three-win season, Cutler’s departure, and then Fox’s firing.
Complicated has been a common word around Halas Hall for the better part of a decade, one which the Bears were watching from home in January from the 2011 season through 2017. Constant change, little consistency, and even some controversy made it one of the more frustrating eras for the proud NFL franchise.
But, at last, the end of the postseason drought is almost here for the Chicago Bears, and getting it is so simple.
With a “Magic Number” of just one for a NFC North title and their first playoff berth since 2010, all the Bears need is a victory over the Packers on Sunday or a loss by the Vikings to the Dolphins to reach the playoffs. It would be a monumental feat after a five-win season and continue a remarkable turnaround under first year head coach Matt Nagy, a second-year franchise quarterback, and a defense that could carve out its own place in the proud history of the franchise.
“We know that’s at stake,” said receiver Allen Robinson when asked about the chance to clinch the division. “As far as this team and this locker room, again it’s another opponent that we’ve gotta beat. So we’re gonna treat it like any other Sunday.”
Yet it’s not in some ways.
The Bears haven’t had a shot to clinch a place in the playoffs since the final game of the 2013 season, when a division championship escaped against the Packers. In the final minute, Aaron Rodgers hit Randall Cobb on a now-infamous touchdown pass when a coverage was blown to give Green Bay a 33-28 win that sent them to the playoffs, and the Bears into a half-decade spiral.
Perhaps its fitting, and slightly ironic, that the Bears can take a major step in franchise history against their biggest rival. Green Bay comes to town enduring it’s roughest season in a decade, having fired coach Mike McCarthy, and posting a 5-7-1 record. The highlight of their season was a Week 1 win over the Bears in which they erased a 20-point third quarter deficit for a victory.
Don’t think that loss is far from the team’s mind as they now host the rematch with the Packers with a magic number of one for an elusive playoff spot.
“We know this is a big week for us, and a lot comes with it,” said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. “But we just have to keep it simple- everyone go out there and play hard, play together, everyone do your job, and just focus on being 1-0.
“If you try to make it more than what it is, sometimes you lose track of what you need to do.”
For once, doing that won’t be complicated for the Bears to reach an elusive goal.