During halftime of the Bears game Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings, quarterback Jay Cutler called the locker room to order. The co-captain of the offense, in his first game back from five weeks lost to an injured thumb, talked to his teammates about “cold-blooded execution.” Then the Bears, who had bumbled their way into a 1-6 chasm before Monday, went out and did precisely that to the NFC North leaders.
“They got after us pretty good,” admitted Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer.
In the mind of defensive co-captain Pernell McPhee, the 20-10 win over the Vikings (5-2) should not be a source of relief. It should spur nothing short of anger.
“I hope it pisses everybody [in this locker room] off,” said an emotional McPhee (that’s redundant, actually). “That’s what I hope. I hope it pisses everybody off and know we can dominate the league if we really put our minds to it. We just played a great team and we dominated them. So it’s got to piss everybody off and [make them] say we shouldn’t lose no more games to teams that we ain’t got no business losing to.”
Indeed, where some teams fragment with increasing speed through an extended period of adversity — which the first half of 2016 would clearly qualify as — the Bears have appeared to do the opposite, with what seemed at times over the past couple days to reflect something of a growing fury.
This game played out amid a bit of an anger surge after a national report that the organization had brought in a consultant to evaluate all of football operations. The story was angrily denied by multiple individuals, but also served, as one football staffer told CSNChicago.com, to fuse people together in the wake of things like one assistant coach’s wife texting her husband, asking, “Are we getting fired?”
“We all sign up for it and we get it,” said coach John Fox. “But I can tell you there is not truth to that report. This is as unified of an organization and football team that I’ve ever been associated with. The National Enquirer has a lot of reports, too.”
Being in a rage doesn’t make you suddenly good, but in the Bears case it kept them agitated. The offense had the positive boost of getting Cutler back. Players said that Cutler delivered a halftime speech that confirmed why he was voted a co-captain by his teammates. The defense got more of McPhee than they did in his halting return in Green Bay. And the miserable results to this point of the year ate at them.
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Even if it was just a baby step and a belated one at that, it was a step.
“It’s something we talked about as a team,” said defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. “It’s going to be a lot better to go into this [off] week 2-6 instead of 1-7 and if that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is. We need to start climbing that hill.”
The offense piled up 403 yards, more 140 more than the previous high against the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense. The 20 points were the second-most allowed by the Vikings this season. The defense sacked Sam Bradford five times, tying the Bears’ season high, hit the Minnesota quarterback an additional four times, and limited an admittedly weak Vikings run game just 57 total yards, second-lowest this season.
“They’ve stuck together all this time,” said Fox, whose response to the victory was to give the players the entire week off. “It hasn’t been easy at 1-6 – nobody’s satisfied with that. But they’ve remained close, they’ve worked hard and they’ve had a great attitude. We’re excited to get some time away, heal some guys up and come back for the second half of the season.”