Last week before the Bears faced the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving, which marked the second short-week road game in less than one month, coach John Fox let his young team know that they didn’t really have it so rough. After all, he’d seen worse.
“Foxy said, ‘Well, last year we played Sunday Night Football and had a Thursday game,’” said tackle Kyle Long. “So we’re thinking, ‘Well, it could be worse. Foxy’s been in the league so long, so he’s been in situations before.”
(Of course, Foxy left out the fact that his Broncos got to play both of those games at home. But, hey, no reason to spoil a good story for the kids, right?).
The operative thought there, however, wasn’t the time between games. It was that Fox, and by extension his staff, has been in situations before.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
The Bears have bought in to the mentorings of John Fox and his coaching staff pretty much since the group was hired in the weeks after the demoralizing end of the 2014 season. Unlike the Marc Trestman staff that was rife with assistants on their first NFL job, It was a staff that came with cred.
And that cred has spiraled upward through a recovery from an 0-3 start to winning five of the eight games since then.
Very little has worked for the Bears against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, for example. But coaches made tactical tweaks that broke from the conventional wisdom of caution vs. Rodgers and the result was the second-fewest points scored by Packers against the Bears since the beginning of the Rodgers era.
“We stayed focused, did what was taught all during the week and just got it done,” said defensive end Jarvis Jenkins.
Salary cap rules prohibit unofficial bonuses for accomplishments but it’s unlikely that Fox is going to face any NFL disciplinary action for the perk he presented his team after Thursday’s 17-13 win over the Green Bay Packers.
“He just said, ‘See ya Monday!’” tight end Zach Miller said, laughing.
Three complete days off, a de facto mini-bye week late in the third quarter of the season, only adds a little light burnish to the steadily growing esteem in which Fox and his staff are held by a team that has believed in since their arrival. Now that respect – “buy in” – is going to another level after the results of the game plans in all three phases at Green Bay.
The chemistry between units, something Fox has fostered since the beginning of the preseason, where each unit feels committed to supporting the other two, is building.
“Offense gave us a chance to close the game,” Jenkins said, “and in the past couple weeks we didn’t do that.”