Telling Bears that 2015 is a rebuilding year is an 'insult'


Telling Bears that 2015 is a rebuilding year is an 'insult'

Linebacker Pernell McPhee was asking around to find out how many yards Aaron Rodgers had passed for in the Green Bay Packers’ 31-23 win Sunday over the Bears. The answer came back: 189.

McPhee shook his head: “Let’s be real: We come in and somebody says Aaron Rodgers will throw for 189 yards and we lose – [expletive] – that shocked me.”

The Bears left Soldier Field on Sunday, not feeling good that they somehow might have drawn closer to the benchmark for NFC North excellence, but rather feeling angry that they lost a game they should have won.

If someone suggests the Bears took a positive step in their rebuilding process, the Bears take that as an insult.

[MORE: Playing Packers close 'not good enough' for Jared Allen]

“It is an insult, a little bit,” said linebacker Christian Jones. “Because we know in this locker room what we can do.

“People say this is a ‘rebuilding year,’ but we’ve got the guys who can go out and compete right now with any team that comes on the field with us.”

That is the most palpable difference wrought by the regime change under coach John Fox, his staff and the new front office. Last year the Bears knew they couldn’t play with the Packers (and others), and were right; they couldn’t.

Now they come within a touchdown of the Packers – the Bears were driving for a tying fourth-quarter touchdown when Jay Cutler was intercepted at the Green Bay 20 – and they’re mad.

“We can play with anybody,” wide receiver Alshon Jeffery said flatly. “I give them credit, they’re a great team and all that, but we had some self-inflicted wounds on ourselves. ... I still feel like we beat ourselves. It’s nothing they did. I feel great about this team. I love this team.”

Feeling good and actually being good aren’t necessarily the same thing. Not even remotely most of the time in the real world.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans]

But several Bears came into Sunday’s game fully expecting to beat Rodgers and the Packers, to “shock the world,” as young defensive tackle Ego Ferguson had said. In the past, a game was effectively over if the Bears fell behind by 7 points, or so the attitude clearly was. Now, not so, at all.

After the interception of Cutler by linebacker Clay Matthews, the Packers scored and went up 31-16. The Bears recovered and went 72 yards in six plays, then were an onside-kick recovery away from a second chance to tie in the span of the final four minutes.

“The mentality out there is ‘don’t even blink,’” said running back Matt Forte, who ran for 141 yards and a touchdown. “The mentality of this offense, which I was proud of, is nobody had that stupid look on their face.

“Like before, when something would happen, saying, like, the game is lost already when there was time left. We didn’t do that and came out fighting.”

And don’t tell a 30-year-old running back who’s just netted 166 yards in a game that his team’s just rebuilding: “I expect us to be out there and be a close game, or a least be better competition than what it has been in previous years.”

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen's rookie season with the Chicago Bears was an impressive blend of running, receiving and special teams play. He quickly became a household name. The combination of his diminutive frame and oversized personality made him a fan favorite, especially when he started gaining yards in chunks.

    In fact, of all running backs with a minimum of 80 carries last season, Cohen had the highest percentage of runs that went for 15 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Cohen will have a big role in new coach Matt Nagy's offense this season because of everything he offers a play-caller. He's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and can chew up yards on the ground like any traditional running back. He's a hold-your-breath talent who can turn a bad play into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

    Cohen had 370 rushing yards, 353 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns in what can be described as a limited role last year. John Fox and Dowell Loggains didn't seem to ever figure out how to best use Cohen's skill set. That should be no issue for Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the team's new offensive coordinator, who both bring a creative offensive approach to Chicago.

    Jordan Howard will be the starter and will do most of the heavy lifting. But Cohen is going to have a much bigger role than he had as a rookie, and that should result in more big plays and points on the board.