The Bears at this point in their 2016 season face any number of questions. But one in particular looms relevant as they try to build on an impressive win over the Minnesota Vikings and use it as a springboard into the second half of their season:
Does their attitude and confidence get them closer to more wins and better play? Or does the better play (and positive reinforcement from a “W”) build the attitude? Or both?
“Ideally you want to start off with that confidence,” said linebacker Sam Acho. “But some of it is built. You don’t really know you can do something until you go out and do it.”
So were the Bears good against Minnesota because they found some confidence? And will it last, whatever it is? Or does beating the Vikings materially improve their chances of win No. 3 next Sunday just because now they know they can be good for 60 full minutes?
“It’s a game of confidence and it’s hard to get confidence without something good happening and that typically is wins,” said coach John Fox. “No doubt. Obviously that helps. But what came first, the chicken or the egg? I think we performed well so you have a better chance of winning and then it all works.”
Talk is very, very cheap, and also very, very easy. And while the mood within the Halas Hall locker room was palpably better on this Wednesday than quite a few previous ones this season, that doesn’t mean much if the Bears come back from Tampa 2-7.
But within the defense in particular, as members of the Bears’ defense returned to practice on Monday, they weren’t used to so many bodies moving around, given the weekly sick bay the team has filled up too many times through eight game weeks.
Yet in spite of gaping starting-lineup holes left by injuries – Bryce Callahan (2 games missed), Kyle Fuller (8), Eddie Goldman (6), Lamarr Houston (6), Pernell McPhee (6), Danny Trevathan (2) – the Bears finished the first half of a disappointing season still ranked in the top half of the NFL in yardage allowed (12th), rushing average (10th), third-down defense (8th), sack percentage (13th).
Notably perhaps, the Bears did not deteriorate into a group expecting something to go wrong, which has happened within some past Bears teams that were battered by one injury or misfortune after another.
“Anytime you are playing well it is going to create confidence,” said defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. “Good play, good execution, fuels emotion more so than any speech could. So if you are out there experiencing good things, you feel better about yourself as an individual and as a unit. I am sure the fans even felt a little better.”
Feeling better is certainly a good thing. Feeling nasty is more the internal objective, however, and that is part of the program for a team that believes it has turned a corner and now doesn’t want to back-slide.
“Today, yesterday, Monday, I told the guys the main thing was to stay pissed off, know where we are and where we can go,” McPhee said. “The sky’s the limit; only thing we’ve got to do is stay focused.”