CHICAGO – No one is trying to take anything away from a team that played a full 16-game season during the middle of a pandemic.
The Bears are one of 32 teams in the National Football League to do so, and during that process, Matt Nagy’s group managed to qualify for the postseason. It’s only the second time the Bears have been in the playoffs since the start of the 2011 season, so seeing a playoff game featuring the orange and blue.
That deserves praise, certainly. Nagy is correct to say that the team earned it, because what they had to do to just get through the season in a pandemic is impressive. Turning around what looked like a situation void of hope just a month ago does validate the coach’s preaching of a strong team “culture.”
At the same time, you get the reality of the situation.
It’s an 8-8 team that snuck into the postseason after another loss to their rival and needed help from an NFC West game to do so. They lost six-straight games during the middle of the season after a 5-1 start, then beat three below-.500 teams to get to eight wins, they lost to the Packers on Sunday.
While that game was better than the debacle on November 29th in Green Bay, the NFC North champs were still able to pull away late for a comfortable victory.
It makes the task of appreciating the now a little difficult on a number of fronts, especially since the end of this era appeared set in stone when a ten-point lead evaporated in the final minutes against Detroit on December 6th. Three wins after that showed some promise, and brought some faith in the play and leadership of Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky, but not it wains a bit after another loss to the Packers.
Is this progress? Is this what should be in the third year of an on-field staff that was going to change the way offense is played in Chicago? What about the defense, which just isn’t producing like before and might be dealing with serious injuries to Roquan Smith and Jaylon Johnson ahead of their playoff game Sunday in New Orleans?
All questions are valid for a team that snuck in the playoffs in a spot that didn’t even exist until this year. One can be happy that the team gets to play another game yet wonder if it’s actually for the best. Another argument can be made that fans should expect more from this franchise that will need a historic playoff run to keep their championship drought from reaching 35 years.
That’s a lot to think about when it comes to a football team that’s as emblematic of a bizarre 2020 as anyone in sports. Lots of roller coasters of emotions, changes, doubts mixed in with a bit of joy as this season has gone down the road in every direction.
Maybe that’s why fans are have all the feels about the 27th appearance of the franchise in the playoffs. There’s a lot there, and a lot is valid, as the Bears travel to New Orleans for the most unlikely of postseason games in the most bizarre of seasons.