Bears see MNF win over Chargers as 'starting point' for playoffs


Bears see MNF win over Chargers as 'starting point' for playoffs

SAN DIEGO – In a 16-game season, pretty much every game is a statement, one way or the other. Monday’s 22-19 comeback win over the San Diego Chargers was indeed one of those.

It isn’t important to be an artistic success, only a success. And the Bears are daring to dream.

The Bears still need to beat someone other than AFC West also-ran’s. But going to St. Louis next weekend, “it definitely could be [a turning point],” said cornerback Tracy Porter, who forced a turnover and delivered a crucial pass breakup on the Chargers’ final drive. This is something to build on. This is just one win. It feels good but we still have a long season ahead of us.

“Our goal is to get to the playoffs. This could definitely be a starting point.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

After failing to hold off the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings in fourth quarters of consecutive losses, the Bears (3-5) underscored the statements made in similar victories over the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. In those games, the Bears felt they had found an identity as fighters, such that no matter what went wrong in the first 55 or so minutes, they would be standing at the end.

“We’ve been in these types of games for several weeks now,” said tight end Martellus Bennett, who caught eight passes, one for a touchdown in the second quarter. “Everybody knew what it actually takes to win one of these and we were able to do it, make a play. The defense made a play at the end, [the offense] was able to make a drive.

“It was just one of those things. Every single week has been the same thing; we just haven’t been able to make those plays at the end. Today we made those plays.”

"Those plays" on Monday included 142 combined yards by rookie running back Jeremy Langford, with a one-yard TD run and a two-point plunge to put the Bears up by 3 points in the closing minutes.

They didn’t always make "those plays," but maybe that’s the point. The Bears had the football in San Diego’s end of the field on eight of their first nine possessions, yet scored only seven points total from the first six. They missed two field goals for only the third time in Robbie Gould’s 11-year career. They needed 15 points in the fourth quarter, the last coming on an epic one-handed catch by tight end Zach Miller of a Jay Cutler pass for a 25-yard touchdown with less than 4 minutes to play.

[MORE: Tim Jennings cut by the Bucs]

“It’s one of those things where instincts take over,” said Miller, whose last touchdown catch came in 2011 before a run of debilitating injuries. “I really didn’t have time to go with two [hands]. [Cutler] put some juice on it and I had to go get it with one and thankfully pulled it down and made the play when it was needed.”

They then gave themselves a three-point lead when Cutler checked out of a pass play and had rookie Jeremy Langford smash in for two points behind an offensive line delighted at the change of play.

“I don’t know what Jay’s rules were to check to it,” said center Matt Slauson, but as soon as soon as he did, we as a line were all, ‘Yeah, here we go!”

To the playoffs? They think so.

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski 'highly unlikely' to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Gronkowski has not officially been ruled out yet, though time is running out for the Patriots to make a decision.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for the Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”