Joniak's Journal: Matt Nagy Proud Of Bears' Resiliency

"I want our guys to continue being them," Nagy says.

Jeff Joniak
December 11, 2018 - 3:52 pm
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LAKE FOREST (WBBM Newsradio) -- The Bears (9-4) can win the NFC North with a victory against the Packers (5-7-1) at Soldier Field on Sunday. Here are the notes and observations of the day as they continued preparing Tuesday.

First impression

In the aftermath of a season-opening collapse against the Packers, Bears coach Matt Nagy vowed his team would learn and grow from the stunning loss. Nine wins and 12 games later, the resilient Bears are on the doorstep of their first NFC North crown since 2010. They have come a long way, and winning while growing has been the theme all season.

"When you start chasing things, then normally you play different," Nagy said Monday night on the Bears Coaches Show on WBBM. "I don’t want to chase anything. I want our guys to continue being them and playing the way that we play best, and then all of that stuff will happen on its own and we just control what we do. And I think we’ll be OK."

The Bears are 3-17 against the Packers since the start of 2009. They have lost eight straight to the Packers at Soldier Field. Before the season opened, Nagy explained that none of that history matters to the 2018 Bears. Beating the Packers to win the NFC North on Sunday would signal the dawn of a new day.

Second thought

Nagy consistently has asked his team to keep the blinders on after wins and losses. It's difficult, especially right now. Playoff talk and even Super Bowl talk includes the Bears.  

"You’re always listening, right?" defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. "You’re always listening to what people have to say and that goes to the talking heads on television too. We’ve been listening to them for years. We look forward to the challenge. We look forward to stepping up and meeting whatever adversity we have coming at us."

On the Mully & Haugh Show on 670 The Score on Tuesday morning, Hicks explained that comments from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers a few weeks back on team’s success at Soldier Field stokes his flames.

"Nobody forgot Aaron's little comments after they lost that big game (against the Vikings on Nov. 25) where he said, 'All we got to do is win out, and go to Soldier Field and win like we've done a bunch in the past,'" Hicks said. "I'm real excited for Aaron to come down here and play this game."

Hicks doesn't need much these days to get his engine revved up. He's playing with a ferocious and physical style, penetrating against the run and collapsing the pocket with his pass rush. He's seeking his first Pro Bowl selection.

"I hope everything goes the way that I deserve, but we’ll see," he said.

Hicks played at a Pro Bowl level last season and felt he was snubbed.

Third degree

Entering Week 15, the Bears haven't permitted an opposing running back to reach 100 rushing yards in regulation. They're second in the league in rushing defense, allowing 83.2 yards per game. Dolphins running back Frank Gore (101) and Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley (125) each eclipsed the century mark in overtime wins against the Bears.  

Only once in the last 31 regular-season games has a running back hit the 100-yard rushing mark in regulation against the Bears -- the Vikings' Latavius Murray in Week 17 in 2017. The great Bears' defense 1980s hold the franchise record with a streak of 30 games without allowing an opposing running back to rush for 100 yards. That streak ended in 1988.

Thirty years later, the league is on pace to have the fewest rushing attempts in history but the highest yards-per-carry average. Mobile quarterbacks, runs against nickel defenses and in some cases a lack of concern from defenses about stopping the run has boosted th yards-per-rush numbers. 

Fourth-and-short

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller is putting together an impressive two-year resume in coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense. Fuller is tied with Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard for the NFL lead with seven interception. In the past two seasons, Fuller has a league-high 41 pass breakups, including 19 this season.

Fuller will need to continue to play at a high level, because it appears the Bears have suffered an injury setback in the secondary. Nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan suffered a broken bone in his foot in the win against the Rams on Sunday, according to a report. Callahan has been a valuable piece to the defensive puzzle as the Bears have excelled against the run and the pass this season. He has created some pressure on well-timed blitzes. Callahan is in a contract year. Durability has been a challenge for him.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.​​​