MONSTER’S MASH: A Sunday of possibilities for the Bears

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SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 23: Head coach Matt Nagy of the Chicago Bears looks on against the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

LAKE FOREST – It’s been a while since the Bears had a chance like this, reaching a number that’s been elusive since the team’s last Super Bowl title.

With a victory over Minnesota on Sunday, the Bears would reach 12 wins for just the fourth time since 1988, doing so for the first time since the 2006 season.

Is that a major focus? Well, kinda.

If they can get the 12 win, the team would stay alive for one of the Top 2 seeds in the NFC, giving them a bye in the first round. Yet their fate will not just be determined in their game against the Vikings at US Bank Stadium, but also the Rams’ game against the 49ers in Los Angeles. They’ll need a win by San Francisco plus a win over Minnesota for the bye.

So how does Matt Nagy manage this? He could choose to rest some of his starters, knowing the team is locked into the third seed no matter what transpires in Week 17. Yet a win keeps his team alive for an extra week off, so does he pay attention to what’s going on with the Rams?

For the first year coach, it’s a complex question.

“It’s hard when you’re in my role, just because you’re so focused in on so many things and you have so many responsibilities. So we’ll have a plan and process to get an idea of what we need to do but that’s, again, where it gets real easy, is that when you just go and you just play your guys to win,” said Nagy when asked if he would have anyone paying attention to the game in Los Angeles. “To me it would have to be something where someone comes to me and says ‘Hey listen, it’s a complete blowout or something and then you still have decisions to make as well. We’re going there to win the game, regardless of who is in the game, we’re going to win the game.

“So none of that is going to change for any of the players, any of the coaches. We talked about it this morning; that’s just not where we’re at right now.”

KHALIL PUTS IT IN PERSPECTIVE

He’s provided many highlights during his nearly four months in December, and he might have provided one of the best quote this week.

Khalil Mack is one of those members of the Bears who has experience in the playoffs, having played in the postseason with the Raiders in 2016. He, like many over the past few weeks, has been asked about how the pressure has escalated on the team as they close in on the postseason.

Mack put it in the right perspective.

“It’s win-or-go-home type of situations,” said Mack. “They say that football in December is the football you remember, type of stuff. So that’s what it’s going to be.”

PRINCE IS QUITE A GUY

As the Bears have enjoyed a turnaround season as a team, many players have done the same. Prince Amukamara is one of them.

The cornerback has more interceptions this year (3) than he did the past three seasons (1). His tackles have gone up by 15 from 2017 (48 to 63 in 14 games) and he’s been a key part of the Bears’ improvement from five to at least 11 wins this season.

Amukamara has also remained someone willing to talk on behalf of the team this season, which earned the defensive back an award this week at Halas Hall. He was named the 2018 Good Guy Award from the media – which is awarded by the Chicago chapter of the Pro Football Writer of America to a player’s willingness to speak to reporters.

It marks the second time Amukamara has received the award, getting it while a member of the Giants in 2015.

“I try to be as personable, authentic, and transparent as I can, and just try to give you guys as much insight as I’m allowed to do,” said Amukamara of the award. ”

 

STAT OF THE WEEK – 5

The number of consecutive season finales the Bears have lost.

Their last win came in Week 17 against the Lions back in 2012 – the final game for then head coach Lovie Smith.

Three of those losses came to the Vikings in 2014, 2016, and 2017.

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