GREEN BAY, Wis. — John Fox doesn’t believe in signature wins.
The Bears coach stood in the middle of the locker room following their 17-13 win at Lambeau Field on Thursday night and was hoisted in the year, playfully, by his players. They’d beaten the Packers and, at least for now, injected themselves back into the playoff hunt.
“I think it wasn’t so much about who we were playing or where we were playing — it was more about us,” Fox said. “I think, even though we’ve lost some close games, I think they’ve gained some confidence in those experiences.
“And now it was finally nice to be able to convert one of those close contests against a very worthy opponent.”
Whether the at-long-last win provides a springboard will decide the rest of the Bears’ season.
Before Thursday, the Bears had an 8 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com. Friday, it jumped to 21 percent.
Not all predictors are as optimistic. At 5-6, the Bears are currently the ninth seed in a six-team NFC tournament. But only one of their five remaining opponents, the 7-3 Vikings, has a winning record.
Quarterback Jay Cutler acknowledged Thursday night the Bears like the looks of their schedule: at home against the 3-7 49ers and 4-6 Redskins, road trips to Minnesota and the 5-5 Buccaneers and a season-ending home game against the 4-7 Lions.
“I think this has been a confident group all year long,” he said. “I think once we started playing some tight games, winning a few, we have been in a lot of games in the fourth quarter and we’ve won some and we’ve lost some.
“But the theme is that we have always been there, we’ve always had a shot. This team hasn’t really flinched from that moment on.
“I think Coach Fox has been sending the message and guys have been listening and believing in him.”
They’ll likely have to run the table. The Bears be hampered in the tiebreaker process by a NFC North mark that can be, at best, 3-3, and a conference record that can top out at 7-5.
The Bears’ surest path to the playoffs is to claim a wild-card spot. Two of the three teams ranked above them in wild-card odds play Sunday: the Vikings and Falcons. The Seahawks host the Steelers.
“Every week is a must-win if we want a shot come January,” guard Matt Slauson said. “But we can’t get ourselves into a trap deal when we’re looking down the road.”
A loss Thursday would have killed off that discussion. Instead, for at least another 10 days — if not longer — they’re in the playoff hunt.
“Right now that’s the whole goal,” cornerback Tracy Porter said. “I’m not the guy that decides who goes to the playoffs. The only thing we’re doing is playing week-by-week, game-by-game.
“We’re going to stack up these wins and let the record take care of itself at the end.”
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