MONSTER’S MASH: Playoff football and Fortnite for Tarik Cohen

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 23: Tarik Cohen #29 of the Chicago Bears carries the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game at Levi's Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

LAKE FOREST – When the excitement was at a low last season, he was the one that got things “turned up.” When the enthusiasm went up this year, Tarik Cohen took it to a whole new level.

That’s what the electrifying running back and now All-Pro punt returned did in his rookie year of 2017 and has continued into his second season in 2018. Cohen is the man who puts the fun into a rather entertaining Bears’ offense and team in general.

So the prospect of a bringing that can of excitement to a playoff game takes that to an entirely different level for the second-year player.

“I’m hyped,” said Cohen when asked if he’s talked to veteran players about what the playoffs are like. “I talked to them about me being hyped, they seem me being hyped. I think I want to calm down a little bit – not peak too soon.

“So I’ve got to talk to them…because this is just one game in the playoffs so I’ve got to calm down a little bit.”

So how does he do it? Nothing like a little gaming to put the playoffs in a bit of perspective.

“I play a game, I play, like, Fortnite,” said Cohen. “It calms me down football-wise, but it turns me up on the game. I get turned up on the game.”

THE EDDIE JACKSON WATCH CONTINUES

For all of the bad luck the Bears have caught with injuries the past two years, you could argue they’ve gotten some back in 2018.

Bryce Callahan went out for the year, and Kyle Long was out for half the season, but for the most part, the team has escaped a number of major injuries.

But there is one concern for the Bears as they head into their Wild Card game against the Eagles on Sunday – the health of the ankle of safety Eddie Jackson.

Ever since he rolled it at the end of an interception against the Packers in the fourth quarter of a Week 15 win, the All-Pro has been on the sidelines trying to get healthy. It appears those efforts are working, as Jackson was a limited participant in practice on Thursday and Friday after missing Wednesday’s workout.

Yet his status for Sunday remains up in the air, officially listed as questionable for the Wild Card contest.

“It’s literally going to go right up until game time decision,” said head coach Matt Nagy of Jackson’s status. “I know I’ve used it before – cautiously optimistic – but then if he’s good, let’s go. If not, we won’t. We’re gonna be smart.”

THE RESPECT BETWEEN COACHES

To say there is a familiarity between the two head coaches that will take the field on Sunday would be a bit of an understatement.

Matt Nagy and Doug Pederson spent their formative years of coaching together in both Philadelphia and Kansas City, and their meeting on Sunday in the playoff will be one between friends.

“I have a ton of respect for him and we texted last night a little bit,” said Nagy of Pederson on Monday.

They started coaching together in Philadelphia under Andy Reid in 2009 when Pederson was the offensive quality control coach and Nagy was an intern. Pederson would eventually move up to quarterbacks coach while Nagy went from coach’s assistant to the quality control job till 2012, when both were out of work when head coach Reid was fired.

When he went to Kansas City, the pair followed him. Pederson became the offensive coordinator in Kansas City with Nagy serving as his quarterback’s coach. When Doug left for the Eagles’ head coaching job in 2016, Nagy took over the offensive coordinator spot until getting the Bears’ job in January of 2018.

It’s a remarkable road from assistants to leaders of two playoff teams – and it’s something that Nagy recalled when discussing his friendship with Pederson this week.

“It’s crazy to think eight years ago that we were together just — that’s when we first got our start working together, putting in lots of hours,” said Nagy. “You go back, I can still remember the day that we were sitting in his office watching tape on Nick Foles, and going back to seeing that and talking with Coach Reid. It’s amazing how fast time goes and how life is, with just these people.

“There’s others. There’s more people in that organization other than just Doug, but Doug and I were hip-by-hip for six years, and I think the world of him.”

A BIRTHDAY PRESENT FOR THE MATRIARCH

For many, the wait for a playoff game has been long over the past few months, but that’s especially true for the matriarch of the Bears’ franchise.

But what a  birthday present she will get on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Virginia H. McCaskey turned 96 on Saturday and will watch her team play their first postseason game since January of 2011 on Sunday at Soldier Field against the Eagles in Wild Card round.

She is the oldest owner in the NFL and has held that title since 1983 after the death of her father George S. Halas.

STAT OF THE WEEK: 1-2

The Bears’ record in playoff games against the Eagles. The lost the initial game in 1979 to the Eagles in the Wild Card round in Philadelphia, with the teams meeting in the Divisional round after that.

In the infamous “Fog Bowl,” the Bears won 20-12 in Chicago. In January of 2002, Philadelphia won the last game at the old Soldier Field, knocking off the NFC Central champs 33-19.

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