The 2015 Bears have dealt with losses and recovering from setbacks. After downing Oakland and Kansas City, however, their job now is to “overcome” wins.
“You know, dealing with victories is sometimes harder than dealing with losses,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “You feel like you’ve arrived a little bit.
“But I think with this team, we’re not there yet. Everyone knows we’re not there yet. And we’re kind of business as usual. Obviously, there’s going to be a little bit more confidence because of two wins, but I think everybody’s feet are still in the ground.”
The Bears haven’t won three straight games since the first three games of 2013, the beginning of the Marc Trestman tenure. Not that winning three in a row necessarily translates to anything. The 2012 Bears won six straight, missed the playoffs and got Lovie Smith fired. The 2011 group won five straight, then lost five straight under Caleb Hanie to squander that postseason opportunity. The 2010 team won three and five straight, but the 2009 one, Cutler’s first year as a Bear, won three straight early, then bottomed out to 7-9.
But now an overriding question as the Bears made their way through the Green Bay, Arizona and Seattle games was how much scar tissue successive losses might leave on the psyche of a team taking its first regular-season steps with a new coaching staff and myriad new players still orienting to each other.
Mistakes were being made in all three phases, compounded by injuries that became (and to some extent still are) a near-daily story. The latest came Saturday when defensive tackle Ego Ferguson was placed on the reserve/injured list with a knee injury that has hampered him virtually all season and had him inactive for the Arizona game.
But extending back through the offseason, literally to the day John Fox was hired as Bears coach, a vein of belief was palpable as players talked both openly as well as privately of a confidence in a coaching staff with records of success. The situation was in stark contrast to the situation of the past two years under a less distinguished staff viewed by the players with skepticism bordering at times on outright contempt as control – and wins – vanished.
Two comeback victories have reversed at least the time being the slide that the Green Bay, Arizona and Seattle losses comprised. But the common question is whether wins comes from confidence or confidence from wins, and the reality is, both.
Why this becomes particularly interesting suddenly is that the successes are coming from multiple and different players, and in different phases.
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“I think individual guys have been gaining confidence,” said tight end Martellus Bennett. “Me with the Raiders [11 catches, TD], ‘Q’s’ [Marquess Wilson, six catches, TD] last week, Jay with those finishing drives… .
“So it's just a lot of guys just constantly working to get better. You're going to have to see those results. So guys are like, 'ok, let's do a little bit more, let's do a little bit more.' So it's just starting to feel real good.”
The self-image of the 2015 Bears as no-quit fighters, in their minds, was forged the past two weeks in particular but has been building.
The next step is Sunday in Detroit against a team that has beaten the Bears four straight times for the first time in about 40 years. There is a small undercurrent of both payback and statement-making, with the expectation that the Bears want very much not only to defeat the Lions, but physically maul them.
What went into the two wins “meant a lot because we are a lot better team than those first three losses there,” said guard Matt Slauson, “so to kind of get rewarded for all the effort and all the work we've been putting in since April, it was nice, now we have to keep it rolling.”