CHICAGO – There’s a good barometer when it comes to judging just what a Bears’ season might end up being. It’s called the Packers.
For a number of years, with a few exceptions, the level to which a Chicago Bears team is competitive in the National Football League can be judged by how they do against their biggest rival. In 2018, Matt Nagy’s team surprised many with a strong effort in Week 1 and it signaled a strong season to come. The next year, a 10-3 loss to Green Bay at home signaled the inconsistent campaign that would play out over the next few months.
Twice in 2020 the Bears were put in their place by the Packers when fans were asking whether the team was for real. The question was answered on two occasions, but luckily some help and an extra spot opened up that year helped the Bears back into the playoffs.
Once again, a chance to see where the Bears really stand as a team came on Sunday when the Packers made their annual trip to Soldier Field. After two straight wins, Matt Nagy’s team had the shot to tie Green Bay for first in the NFC North with a victory, but more importantly, give an idea if this team was for real.
Over the course of 60 minutes, the Bears got their answer, and it might not have been the one they wanted.
Despite a very promising start, that included another opening drive score at home and some strong defense, the Bears weren’t able to hold the lead and then eventually comeback. Aaron Rodgers did Aaron Rodgers things, from throws to runs and even a message to the fans, while the offense under Justin Fields struggled for consistency.
All made for an afternoon in which the Bears were never far away but yet there wasn’t a sense that they were the better team. Instead, the 60 minutes on the field proved the standings right: It’s the Packers who are elite in the NFC North and everyone else is chasing them.
It’s a familiar place for the Bears as they are now 3-3 for the third time in four years, looking at their group collectively after their most important “measuring stick” game of the season. In 2018, they’d finish up 9-1, while in 2019 they’d go 5-5 at the finish, with each team defining their season in late October and early November.
Now it’s time for Nagy and his group to do so with 11 games remaining in this campaign, weighing what must be done to improve ahead of an opportunity missed on Sunday.
“We got to understand where we are in the season right now and where we want to go. We got to look and say, Okay, together where was it? Was it a couple plays here and there? Was it big picture? Do we feel good with where we are but understand situationally on all three phases can we get a little bit better?,” said Nagy. “It’s a long season, but at the same time, you got to find the resiliency and you find the guys that really criticize themselves as players and coaches. At the same point in time, you don’t point fingers. We’ve shown over years we don’t do that.
“Now we’ve got to be mentally tough. We got to get physically healthy as much as we can because it’s a long season, but then we got to use this, like you’re saying, being positive about it and being able to take this and carry us into a big game next week.”
That’s again the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers on the road, with the team hoping to learn more about themselves just like they did on Sunday.