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.
“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.
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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.”