Cheers from the locker room bounced off the bowels of Lincoln Financial Field. The Bears were about an hour away from a Sunday night kickoff against the Eagles on Dec. 22, 2013. They’d just learned the Packers and Lions lost, leaving them one victory away from reaching the playoffs.
Instead, they took the field and suffered a 54-11 loss, which remains the second-widest margin of defeat in modern franchise history.
The moments preceding the Eagles kickoff might be the last time the Bears were so hopeful. They haven’t been the same since.
“You get pounded like that, you try to forget that one quickly,” quarterback Jay Cutler said Friday.
The few Bears left from that team would like to push the blowout deep into the recesses of their memory. Guard Kyle Long stated the lesson simply: “Don’t go get your ass kicked.”
Still, there’s no doubting the impact the loss — and the season finale defeat the next week on Aaron Rodgers’ 48-yard touchdown pass — had on the trajectory of the franchise.
GM Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman never recovered. Their replacements, Ryan Pace and John Fox, are in Year 2 of digging out from beneath the rubble. Only four Bears who played in that game are still on the roster.
It was a pivot point. In the 35 games before the Eagles blowout, the Bears were 19-16, outscoring their opponents by 69 points. In the 35 since, leading up to Monday’s regular-season rematch, the Bears are 11-24 and have been outscored by 242.
“We had a chance to make the playoffs,” said defensive end Cornelius Washington, who was on the sideline as an inactive player. “It didn’t quite go the way we wanted it to go.”
The Eagles took six plays to score their first touchdown. Devin Hester fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and the Eagles scored five plays later. By the time Nick Foles threw a 10-yard pass to Brent Celek with 1:30 left in the first quarter, fans had already begun to think about next week.
Maybe players were, too.
“We were pretty fired up about that, thinking back,” Washington said. “But afterwards, we really felt like we laid an egg twice in a row. Just having the two chances, not saying we came out a little nonchalant. … I don’t think we necessarily had that mentality, but just in the back of your head.”
Less than three years after the loss, the Eagles have changed their coaching staff, too, replacing Chip Kelly with former Chiefs assistant Doug Pederson this offseason. They still have nine starters from that game still on their roster, though, and 13 players overall.
“That’s over with,” receiver Alshon Jeffery said. “That was a different team, different scheme. It’s a clean slate.”
Long was in no mood to start, in his words, “thinking about old blowouts” leading up to Monday’s game.
“It was three years ago,” he said. “I don’t remember. It’s a new coaching staff. I have brand-new teammates. It’s a new team.”