THE MORNING AFTER: At last, the Bears let the sunshine into Soldier Field
CHICAGO – The sun was shining and everyone was smiling.
Well, maybe not the group of Packers’ fans that ventured into enemy territory on this day. But if someone was wearing or rooting for the orange and blue, happy times were here again.
Matt Nagy pointed to the sky when the final seconds went off the clock. Some players went to grab the ceremonial hats to celebrate the moment, while others ran towards the stands to greet the fans.
The sun was shining, and it was totally appropriate. At last, the Bears were in the light after eight years in the shade of others in the NFC North, and everyone was taking it in.
“This was for the fans,” said cornerback Prince Amukamara, wearing his NFC North championship hat with pride in the locker room. “This was for the organization and we are glad that we were able to do it.”
Finally, it gets done. That’s something worth celebrating, cheering, and “Club Dubbing” as much as one heart desires.
It comes after a few coaching changes – from Lovie Smith to Marc Trestman to John Fox – failed to yield results. The Trestman era, in many ways, was disastrous for team chemistry. While Fox stabilized the locker room, a roster depleted of injuries and talent at times prevented much from getting started.
Since 2014, the Bears won five, six, three, and five games. Talk of the playoffs were pipe dreams for fans that looked on the brightest of bright sides.
But not anymore. Sunday took care of that.
It was what you would see when the Bears were at their best. Starting with Khalil Mack’s sack on the opening drive, one which was aided by a perfectly timed blitz by Roquan Smith, Vic Fangio’s unit had Aaron Rodgers on his heels.
The offense wasn’t dominant but serviceable, as Mitchell Trubisky led a steady offense on four scoring drive. Sure, a pair of trick plays didn’t work out so well, but the unit came up with a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to provide the winning points.
But those are details on a day of celebration, where enjoying the moment is key. Joy hasn’t been a key characteristic around Soldier Field for most of the last decade, so it was important to soak in the praise.
“This team every week finds a way to come in and fight every game and that’s a credit to them and for doing that,” said Nagy of his group. “And they take it seriously, they understand it. They know when to have fun which is a huge part of this process, having fun. But yet they know when it’s business.”
Sunday was all about fun. It’s was well-earned. There’s nothing wrong with living in this moment for a little bit.
“It was tough, it was hard” said defensive end Akiem Hicks, who signed with the Bears in 2016 and endured two seasons in which the team won just eight games total. “But I think the mentality of the guys around….we love to fight. We love to be in those situations where our back is against the wall, and we can either sink or swim, and we’re going to give our best shot.”
They did so on the field. Once the game ended, the smiled with the fans. They partied in “Club Dub” style in the locker room. By no means is this the end of the road for a team still developing, but for one great day, the sun shined into Soldier Field as it hadn’t in years.
“I knew what coach Nagy was capable of. I was aware of everything,” said receiver Allen Robinson. “We brought in some other pieces and we came here and did what we wanted, which started with winning the division. That is just the first of many milestones.”
But enjoy this one. It took a while.