Joniak's Journal: Vic Fangio Keeps Focus On His Bears

Fangio is lined up for interviews with the Broncos and Dolphins next week.

Jeff Joniak
January 03, 2019 - 6:31 pm
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LAKE FOREST (WBBM Newsradio) -- The Bears (12-4) are continuing preparations for the Eagles (9-7) with their wild-card round matchup looming at Soldier Field on Sunday. Here are the notes and observations of Thursday.

First impression

He's the Godfather, the Evil Genius, the Mastermind. Those are all terms of endearment given by Bears defensive players led by coordinator Vic Fangio. 

After directing the NFL's top defense, Fangio is scheduled to interview with the Broncos and Dolphins for their head coaching vacancies next week.

"I have not returned one phone call," Fangio said. "I’ve not done one piece of work for it. I refuse to. That’s it."

"We’ll tackle that when the time comes."

Fangio’s complete focus is on preparing his outstanding defense to beat the Eagles on Sunday. His players are praising Fangio for his work and impact. He's known to be direct, and players respond to him providing the truth.

"He deserves to be a candidate for any team that needs a head coach," defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. "I don’t even want to think about the possibility of him ever leaving, so I’m going to pretend like nothing’s going on."

Second thought

Bears rookie receiver Anthony Miller plays with a harness protecting his left shoulder, which has popped out more than once this season, he said. It did so at Minnesota on Sunday, forcing Miller to leave the game, but he said he could've returned if needed.

Miller is an important weapon against an Eagles secondary that's down several starters due to injury. Miller practiced Thursday and believes he's good to go.

"I haven’t been 100 percent all season," Miller said. "I’ve still been managing to make plays and do my part for the team, and that’s what I will continue to try to do."

Third degree

Quarterback play in the postseason gets significant attention. Legacies are born, belief grows and reputations are defined. 

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is an ideal example given his ride to becoming Super Bowl MVP last season. Now, Bears second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky makes his maiden voyage to the playoffs with marching orders from Matt Nagy and his offensive staff. 

"Just do what he does," offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. "Control himself and do exactly what we’ve asked him to do. Nothing more, nothing less. If his eyes and feet are in the right place, if his head is in the right place, he can be great."

Trubisky will need to rise to the challenge physically and mentally.

"We have a lot of unselfish guys on the team, but he’s at the top," coach Matt Nagy said. "He means it. We have guys that don’t care how many catches, how many rushes, who gets the touchdowns. He doesn’t care whether he throws five touchdown passes or hands the ball off for five. That’s just who we are, and then defensively it’s the same way. We’re all about we and us, not about me and I, and he’s the leader of all that."

Fourth-and-short

Bears rookie linebacker Roquan Smith is one of the key players to watch Sunday. His assignments will include multiple challenges, from third-down back Darren Sproles to Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz to crossing patterns run by receivers Golden Tate and Nelson Agholor.  

Late in fourth quarter against the Giants in Week 12, Agholor nabbed his only targeted throw on a fourth-and-1 crossing pattern that led to a game-winning field goal with 22 seconds left.  

"When they see crossers coming across their face, linebackers expand," Agholor said after that game. "Carson (Wentz) does a great job with his eyes and moving guys and comes back to me, and we were able to be efficient."

That catch may have saved the Eagles' season. It came on a route that Smith and the rest of the defense will need to stop Sunday. 

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