LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The first-place Chicago Bears are ready to let the good times roll, even if their critics are not.
For the Bears, the choice is simple. The latter wins -- in a landslide.
The Bears -- through six weeks of the regular season -- are the NFL’s embodiment of winning ugly.
At 5-1, Chicago is off to its best start in eight years, yet it lacks a signature victory.
In fact, one can argue the Bears are fortunate to be above .500.
In three separate games (Detroit, Atlanta, Tampa Bay), the Bears trailed by double-digits but (miraculously) found ways to win -- the first time the Bears successfully rallied from double-digit deficits in three of their first five games since 1985.
Last week, the same old offensive issues plagued the Bears in Carolina, but the defense suffocated Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers.
After the game, reporters wanted to run down the laundry list of problems on offense, everything from clock management, poor offensive line play, limited success in the run game and questionable end-of-game play calling.
Entering Monday night, the Bears were 28th in total yards per game and rushing yards per game, 27th in third-down conversation percentage and tied for 31st in average yards per completion.
Bears coach Matt Nagy said get off my lawn, so to speak.
“It’s huge [to be 5-1], especially in the world we’re in today in 2020, right, the unknown and what’s going on here in the future,” Nagy said on Sunday. “Shoot, we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow let alone the next couple weeks. So to be able to get out to a fast start, that’s just a credit to our coaches and our players, of the fight that they have. We told them, every win you can get -- what are we, 5-0 in the conference? -- those matter in the end when it comes down to conference records and tiebreakers.
“Hopefully what happens in a perfect world is we’re winning and we’re 5-1, and man wouldn’t that be awesome to get this offense rolling as you’re going into the end of the year and into the playoffs and then it starts clicking? That’s what we’ve got to do. That’s why I refuse to be in that situation where we’re just being hard on all the guys all of the time. We’ve just got to be positive and just keep rolling.”
Entering this season, there were 102 teams that started 5-1 since the NFL went to 12 playoff teams in 1990, and 85 went on to make the playoffs (83.3%), according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The playoff field expands to 14 teams in 2020.
The Bears are in an enviable spot.
“This culture here right now, I wish you all could have been on the plane with us flying home [from Charlotte] last night,” Nagy said Monday. “We were rockin’ and rollin'. We’re so fired up right now. It’s a great feeling. It’s pretty cool.”
The excitement around the Bears is infectious. When 31-year old Foles is handing out shoutouts to rapper Meek Mill on a Zoom call, the party inside "Club Dub" has reached a fever pitch.
“We were able to get a Meek Mill song on in the locker room [after the Panthers win], it reminded me of Philly a little bit. ... It got my juices flowing. ... So shout out to Meek,” said Foles, who’s a self-avowed fan of country music and Christian rap.
“What was it, Dreams and Nightmares? It brought back a memory for me that was exciting and then we were -- I might’ve even got up and danced a little bit. ... I’ll tell you what, when Meek comes on with that song, I get rolling.”
Whether the Bears keep rolling is a valid question. Chicago has a Monday night game versus the Rams (4-2) in Week 7 followed by matchups with New Orleans (3-2), Tennessee (5-0) and Green Bay (4-1) in November.
For now, at least, the Bears are content to live in the moment -- warts and all.
“I believe there is something special here with these players and something special with the coaches,” Nagy said. “Even though it’s not that fantasy world that everyone wants on offense, it’s not that, what it is is winning. It’s winning football. That’s pretty cool when you think about it. We’re going to do everything we can to win.”