Bears spoiling Packers' Brett Favre celebration was only highlight of John Fox era

Bears spoiling Packers' Brett Favre celebration was only highlight of John Fox era

NBC Sports Network will replay 2015’s Bears-Packers Thanksgiving game on Thursday night 8:30 p.m. CT, a game that was supposed to be a celebration of Brett Favre’s career. His No. 4 jersey was retired that night at Lambeau Field, and what better opponent to play than the one Favre so thoroughly tormented during his career in Green Bay, right?

“That’s like they’re scheduling a homecoming game, like a high school team is gonna schedule a homecoming game where they know they’re gonna whoop up on somebody so they can celebrate their homecoming,” ex-Bears tight end Zach Miller recalled. “I feel like they’re throwing this Brett Favre celebration on Thursday night, Thanksgiving, against us trying to have their ultimate celebration where they can celebrate the career he had.”

Only there was a hitch in the Packers’ plans: The Bears went into Lambeau Field and won, 17-13. It was a high point of the John Fox era — maybe the only high point — even if it didn’t change the course of Matt Nagy's predecessor's otherwise-forgettable three-year tenure in Chicago. 

The game itself was awfully sloppy, played in brutal conditions — rain, sleet, cold — and the score reflected that. 

“Pregame warmups, I don’t think I’ve seen more dropped football in my entire career in a matter of 20 minutes because of the rain and sleet we had coming down,” Miller said. “Literally the worst weather combination you could have if you want to throw the ball around. And guys were taking gloves off, guys were switching gloves and it still wasn’t working. I had footballs flying off my hands left and right. Going into this thing I was man, we’re gonna run the ball like 80 times.”

Then-offensive coordinator Adam Gase didn’t call 80 runs, though — 31 passes to 31 rushing attempts were the Bears’ final totals (balance!). But there were five fumbles, with the Bears recovering one of the Packers’ and turning it into a game-tying touchdown in the second quarter. 

Miller was the recipient of a three-year touchdown pass from Jay Cutler to end that drive, and remembered how worried he was he was going to embarrassingly drop a wide-open touchdown — one of the easiest of his career. 

“If you watch the tape, I turn my hands over and catch the football like a loaf of bread,” Miller laughed. “Normally I would have my hands, I would reach out and catch it, but I couldn’t just because I wanted to make sure that I was securing this thing. I’m sitting there, the ball’s flying at me and I’m like alright baby, just please catch this thing.”

The most remarkable thing about this game, though, was that Aaron Rodgers *didn’t* complete one of his patented fourth quarter comebacks against the Bears. 

As you’re watching this game on Thursday night, you might feel like your memory fails you (I know I did). We've seen this story so many times, with Rodgers driving the Packers into the end zone for a last-minute, game-winning touchdown against the Bears. He had to do it this time, right? This is Aaron Rodgers! Against the John Fox Bears! How could he possibly not get the job done?

After grabbing three first downs in succession inside four minutes, Rodgers was picked off by Tracy Porter. But the Bears couldn’t run the clock out and did the thing they’ve so often regretted — they gave the ball back to Rodgers with another chance to win the game. 

Rodgers drove the Packers to the Bears’ eight-yard line, and on fourth down rifled a pass to Davante Adams. Instead of Adams catching the pass over Bryce Callahan for a game-winning touchdown, it slipped through his cold, wet hands. The Bears won. 

The Fox era didn’t have many other memorable moments (maybe Eddie Jackson’s two-touchdown game against the Panthers in 2017?). But hey, Bears fans, when there’s an opportunity to re-watch a win over the Packers, you’re gonna take advantage of it no matter what, right?

8:30 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Network. I’ll be watching it. I hope you will too. 

“Cool for us to go up there and I guess spoil it in a sense,” Miller said. “I know they’re always going to remember the day they retired Brett Favre’s jersey, they got beat by the Chicago Bears.”  

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Danny Trevathan already knows just how dominant the 2020 Bears defense can be

Danny Trevathan already knows just how dominant the 2020 Bears defense can be

While most of yesterday's Bears media availability focused on more pressing issues, Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan both breifly talked about the state of the Bears' defense heading into 2020. 

2018's historically good side came down to earth a bit last year, but the free agent additions of Robert Quinn and Tashaun Gipson, along with rookies Jaylon Johnson,  Kindle Vildor, and Trevis Gipson have some believing there's enough talent on the unit to compete with 2018's production. Healthy seasons from leaders Akiem Hicks and Danny Trevathan will do wonders, too. 

"We’re going to be monsters," Trevathan said. "There’s no doubt in my mind. I watched Quinn from afar. I know he’s been going for a while. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a wrecking machine. Now you’ve got to watch this side here, this side over here. You’ve got to watch the middle. You’ve got to watch the back end. Front seven. Dangerous."

And though they haven't been able to practice together yet, Trevathan mentioned that he's been encouraged by the steps the defense has taken to ensure that the transition back to the practice field goes as seamlessly as possible.

"I feel like right now is the time where we create that communication between one another," he added. "We’re kind of the first people in the history of football to have to deal with a situation like this. We’ve got to hold it down on our part. That’s why I feel like keeping in contact with one another is going to be a deciding factor between which team comes out of this victorious and on top. And I feel like we have the people on this team and this defense to be one of the ones who stand out and ones who come out of this positively. I feel like all we have to do is take one day at a time. Push one another. Call one another out. Have each other’s back. And let’s roll out."

How Bears are thinking about playing football again amid coronavirus pandemic

How Bears are thinking about playing football again amid coronavirus pandemic

Football players are conditioned to block out things on the “outside noise.” The focus for the Bears, though, has recently been on racial injustice and police brutality — and those topics will continue to be part of the team’s daily discussions. There’s no blocking those out anymore or taking a "stick to sports" mindset. 

Linebacker Danny Trevathan isn’t concerned about those issues impacting his, and his teammates’, ability to play football, though. But something else might. 

“I'm more worried about Corona than I'm worried about that in football,” Trevathan said. “I’m not worried about, I mean it still exists in the world so let's not forget about corona, bro. You know, I might go to camp and somebody might have that and I might not be able to play no more.”

MORE: Inside the Bears' emotional team meeting on Monday

Typically, the Bears would right now be in the midst of OTA practices at Halas Hall. The offseason program would conclude with a minicamp in mid-June, providing coaches with a total of 13 non-padded practices to install the playbook and build a foundation ahead of training camp. 

None of those practices will take place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Coaches will be allowed to return to team facilities on Friday but no more than 100 employees can be in a building at one time. And no players will be allowed, meaning none of the remaining OTA practices or this month’s veteran minicamp will be conducted in person. 

So the first time the Bears as a team physically convene again will almost certainly be for the start of training camp. But coronavirus will still be around when that happens. 

“It is scary,” defensive tackle Akiem Hicks said. “It's scary to think that most of my job is physical contact with other players. And so boy, I don't know. I don't know. I want to be safe and I'm sure they're going to do their best to make sure we're in the best possible situation in order to be able to play this game and do it, right? But it's scary. That's how I feel.”

How the NFL handles concerns from players like Hicks will be critical. Players will inevitably test positive for coronavirus, but widespread outbreaks in team facilities will need to be prevented. 

"We fully well expect that we will have positive cases that arise because we think that this disease will remain endemic in society and so it shouldn't be a surprise that new positive cases arise," Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical doctor, said last month. "Our challenge is to identify them as quickly as possible and to prevent spread to any other participants. We're working very diligently on that and we'll have some detailed plans to share about that at a later time."

MORE: Read Akiem Hicks' full comments on social injustice and Colin Kaepernick

The NFL and the NFLPA have at least a month and a half to plan for returning to play in the midst of a pandemic. There is a certain level of trust, though, that wide receiver Allen Robinson has in the sport’s decision-makers to create as low-risk an environment as possible this season. 

Robinson, too, has recently been working out with and catching passes from Mitch Trubisky recently (which coach Matt Nagy said is "freaking awesome"). 

“Honestly, me personally, I'm not too concerned,” Robinson said. “I think that if we're going to be put back in the facility I think that measures are going to be taken. I think that a plan will be had and I think that enough research and stuff will have been done to put everybody in the best kind of situation.”

Let’s hope Robinson is right. Because while the NBA, NHL, MLS and the NWSL have moved toward returning to play — and Major League Baseball moves toward a ruinous destruction of the sport — none of those leagues have actually staged games yet. The NFL has the ability (and luxury) to see what problems may arise with those sports’ return before encountering those issues as a league. 

But as Trevathan said, we can’t forget about corona (bro). It’s — unfortunately — another massive issue facing our country, one that’s also bigger than football. We’ll eagerly await the NFL’s plan to keep its players, coaches and staff safe in 2020. 

Until then, though, maybe we’ll try to figure out what was actually in Hicks’ Quarantini cocktail. 

“There’s been a lot of variations,” Hicks laughed. “What I will say is this: after I found out that, I read an article — and just like everybody else, you read an article on twitter and every other form of media — they said that drinking alcohol could increase your chances of getting COVID. That kinda went down the drain at that point. 

“But I will say this: Tequila was involved.”

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