Rozner: Bears enjoy division title at Packers' expense
The Bears have been talking about expectations for more than 30 years.
And now they really have some.
With their victory over Green Bay Sunday the Bears clinched their division for the first time since 2010 and now can talk about playoff seeding as they point toward an appearance in the Super Bowl.
Anything less would be a huge disappointment.
With each coach and GM hired, with every quarterback brought in to save the franchise and with every year that passes, ownership talks of nothing but Super Bowls.
Much of it has been laughable.
So when you're in first place on Thanksgiving and capture a division title with two games to play, there should be no thoughts of anything except getting to Atlanta for the biggest game of all on the first Sunday in February.
"In order to get where we wanted to go, we had to do this first. This is the first step," said linebacker Danny Trevathan. "We're right where we need to be. We're peaking at just the right time.
"If we stay focused and stay humble, we could go a long way."
The Rams and Saints will have something to say about that, but for the first time since 2006 the Bears are in the playoffs and the Packers will be at home during the postseason.
"We owed them one," said tackle Bobby Massie. "We talked a lot this week about finishing this game. We let one get away the first week of the season."
There would be no repeat of what happened in Green Bay. In fact, it shouldn't have been as close as the final score of 24-17 at Soldier Field.
Bears coach Matt Nagy made an easy game against an inferior opponent harder than it should have been.
It was clear from the start that the Bears could pound the ball against the Packers' 26th-ranked rush defense, but Nagy can never quite commit to the run and the rookie coach still has the ability to outsmart himself.
Especially given the state of the Green Bay offensive line, there should have been little fear as the Bears took a 14-3 lead into the half.
But with the Bears up 14-6 midway through the third, Nagy inexplicably went for a fake punt at midfield, and after it failed Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay down the field in 5 plays for a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie the game.
On the Bears' next drive, on a third-and-1 Nagy chose a direct snap to Tarik Cohen at the Green Bay 23, but on the read option he tried to pull it back from Jordan Howard and it resulted in a fumble and the Packers recovered, taking 3 points off the board.
Once again, the defense came up big with a 3-and-out and the Bears scored the next 10 points to put the game away, Mitch Trubisky directing one of his best drives of the season.
And it's worth noting that up 7 with 6:43 to go and on fourth-and-1, Nagy wisely chose the field goal to give the Bears a 10-point lead, a decision he might not have made earlier in the season.
The Packers kicked a late field goal, but it was way too late. The game was already over and the Bears were division champs, taking out Rodgers and the Packers in the process.
"We've been working hard to win the North," said Leonard Floyd, who made an appearance with 2 sacks and 6 tackles. "Today, we went out and finished it."
On one side, the Packers' offensive line had no chance against the Bears' ferocious pass rush, and on the other the Bears' offensive line gave Trubisky all day to throw.
Still, Nagy kept a pretty tight leash on Trubisky, who did not throw a pass to the other team Sunday.
It's a major step forward as Nagy let the running game do some of the work and kept most of his QB's throws short and safe, which was all that was necessary against this Packers squad.
Whether Nagy will ever be satisfied to let his defense and running game take care of a victory remains to be seen, but his offensive line would enjoy that very much.
"I love that. I wouldn't have to pass block," Massie said with a laugh. "For a lineman, we would love that.
"We have a good stable of backs and guys who can do different things. You just have to feed them the ball. Keep running it, keep running it and it won't be there early, but eventually it will pop open.
"But we can do a lot of things in this offense. It's a good thing to see. We're not one-dimensional. Hats off to the offensive line and the coaching staff. Coach Nagy does a great job."
As seems to be the case every week, Nagy had some very strange moments Sunday, but he does have the club at 10 victories for only the third time since the Bears last reached the Super Bowl in 2006.
They should be thinking of nothing less now than getting back there immediately.