CHARLOTTE – It’s OK if you’re a bit in the middle when it comes to the Bears’ first six games of the season. It’s human nature.
Some might say to just forget about the details and just enjoy the Bears’ 5-1 start to the season. It’s their best in eight years, and just their third over .500 record after six games the past decade. With seven teams now allowed in the playoffs, it could be enough to help the steam snag a postseason spot.
It’s also 2020, so why in the world would anyone try to stifle joy in these times?
Yet it’s also acceptable to have some skepticism about the team’s first five games. Two required ridiculous rallies to salvage wins while the other three haven’t exactly been clean. That includes Sunday’s effort against the Panthers, where the team played with a 14-point lead but had to hang on late.
Once again, it was the defense that made the biggest plays early then late to help the Bears leave Charlotte with a 23-16 win and wins in five of their six games. Thanks to the Packers’ loss to the Buccaneers later in the afternoon, the Bears have the lead in the NFC North all to themselves.
“I told our guys that they’re fighters,” said head coach Matt Nagy when talking about his team after improving to 5-1. “We’ve got a bunch of fighters on this team, that fight till the end in all three phases.
“Can we be better on offense? Absolutely, but our defense and our special teams really played well, and they put us in great situations.”
Just like the one they find themselves in this season as they now have eight days off before facing the Rams on Monday night. But as the opening statement from Nagy says, there is a sense of joy along with the desire to improve, which is reflective of some of the thoughts of Bears fans on this “Victory Monday.”
If the Bears are going to take things to the next level, where the goal turns more towards a championship than just a playoff appearance, they’ll need more.
Enter Nick Foles.
You didn’t have to tell him that the Bears need to be better on offense, especially on a day when they gained just 261 total yards and just 63 on the ground. Foles isn’t about to downplay what the Bears did, but on his Zoom news conference after the game, he made it clear that the team is thinking the same thing the media and fans are on this Sunday.
“We a team offensively that’s young, we’re getting to know each other, we’re figuring out who we are, and we’re doing it at the right time, and as a team we’re winning these games, and I think that’s important” said an animated Foles. “Now we’re not going to get complacent and say ‘Hey, man, we’re 5-1, this is it.’
“No. We’re sitting there in the locker room after a game talking through it. ‘Hey, we’ve got to be better here. This is what we’ve got to do here, communication here, route running here, we’ve got to be able to run the ball here.’ We know that. I know y’all are going to ask those questions, and we know that.”
It was moment of emotion for Foles, who has kept a positive and encouraging tone from the minute he stepped foot into Halas Hall in training camp. He’s the one brought into compete with Mitchell Trubisky for the quarterback spot and lost the initial battle and handled it like a pro.
He was put into the game in Atlanta in Week 3 and led a dramatic come from behind win over the Falcons. Foles’ and the offense stumbled against the Colts and had issues with details against the Bucs, yet still were able to split those games.
After another contest where the offense failed to impress but got enough for overall success, Foles definitely made it clear that he sees something special in the group. “Winning Ugly” is a badge of honor for this signal caller, which he made abundantly clear at Bank of America Stadium Sunday.
“That’s what great teams do. Great teams find a way to win a game. Bad teams win with prettiness. Great teams win no matter how it takes,” said Foles. “So I’m proud of our guys. I think we’re continuing to improve. Are we where we want to be? No, but I’m excited about our offense, I’m excited about the guys that are there.
“I like the communication that’s happening on the sidelines, I love the passion of the players most importantly, they care, and we’re bonding, we’re getting to know each other. That’s football. You just don’t go out there and play football, you’ve got to care about the man next to you to make those plays.
“So I like where we’re at, I know we’ll improve. I believe in our staff, I believe in our players, and I’m really grateful to be a part of this organization.”
It’s one that, at the moment, is sitting near the top of football over a third of the way through the 2020 season. Fans like the record but maybe not how they got there, and the quarterback feels the same, with perhaps more faith on what’s ahead for this first place team.