From 3-5 to the playoffs? Bears wide receiver Josh Morgan feels a familiar vibe that can’t be totally discounted.
Morgan was a starter on the 2012 Redskins team that went from 3-6 to the playoffs — the first NFL team in 16 years to pull off that recovery and only the fourth since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978.
“I see a lot of similarities — especially because we haven’t even gotten into the meat of our division games yet,” Morgan said. “I see the same opportunity here. And I definitely feel that same type of energy here.”
The 2012 Redskins started their march from oblivion to the playoffs after their bye week.
“The players kind of took over everything — the attitude in the locker room,” Morgan said. “I think we handled the bye [week] pretty good. We watched film. We had talks. We corrected our mistakes,” Morgan said. “A lot of guys were injured, so a lot of guys got healthy.
“We just came back so hungry, because we knew we beat ourselves. We cut out all the mental errors, the self-inflicted wounds. Once you cut out that, we stopped beating ourselves and started winning games.”
With rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III leading the way, the Redskins won seven consecutive games — including five against NFC East opponents. They beat the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens 31-28 in overtime at FedEx Field.
It wasn’t like they were a new team. But starting with a 31-6 victory over the Eagles after the bye, the little things that went wrong in the first half started to go right. Against the Giants at home on Monday Night Football, Griffin fumbled as he was being tackled — but the ball popped to Morgan on the fly and he returned it 13 yards for a touchdown. The Redskins, who had lost to the Giants 27-23 in the first half at the Meadowlands, won 17-16 to reach .500 at 6-6. They finished 10-6 to win the NFC East and lost to the Seahawks 24-14 in a wild-card playoff game at home.
“It wasn’t any particular game. It wasn’t any fantastic motivational speech or anything like that,” Morgan said. “But those first two or three games [after the bye], there were moments where we had shot ourselves in the foot and we didn’t do that.
“We’d be in the same situation, we’d call the same play and it would be third-and-long — we had called a hard-count and if we didn’t jump we’d get the first down. It was just little things that happened before where we killed ourselves. And we’d feed off that energy: ‘See what happens when you don’t jump? We get first downs.’
“It was the same players — but a lot healthier. The same team, the same calls. We actually simplified the offense more and we did less. We just went out there and called plays and ran them and let our talent speak.”
That’s nearly the exact template the 2014 Bears offense wants to follow. Just run the offense.
“You know how they always say, ‘The sky’s the limit?’ With this team, our minds is the limit. I think it’s all in our heads. As much as we can think we can do, we can achieve it.
“It’s all mental. If we go out there and think we can do it, we can do anything. There’s so much talent on this team [and] on this offense. I’ve never been on an offense with [so many] players who have been to the Pro Bowl. It’s a matter of doing the simple things, [avoiding] mistakes that are killing us. Us beating ourselves. That’s where our main focus is — not beating ourselves, and actually see if somebody can beat us.”