The Bears aren’t just happy to be in the playoffs, and they shouldn’t be. In a league in which the top Super Bowl contenders are tilted in varying degrees toward offense — the Chiefs, Saints and Rams in particular — the Bears’ big-play, big-dog, big-bite defense is a compelling antidote.
“Our defense is in a rare category now with what they’re doing,” coach Matt Nagy said. “That’s being realistic.”
The question as the Bears take the last two steps toward their first postseason berth since 2010 is whether they have a playoff-ready offense to take advantage of having a defense that could contain Drew Brees, Jared Goff and Russell Wilson — and Patrick Mahomes, Philip Rivers or Tom Brady if it came to that.
“I like where our offense is at, and I would put our offense in a similar category [of playoff readiness],” Nagy said. “When you look at the general scheme of where we’re at right now as a team offensively, I feel very comfortable going into the playoffs with that.”
In Nagy’s grand scheme, quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the offense still are in a formative stage — a year or more from reaching maturity. But there’s plenty of intrigue, with signs of the potential to take a giant step at any time.
The Bears are 22nd in the NFL in total yards but 10th in offensive points produced — a much more promising disparity than the other way around. It’s not like they don’t know how to score.
Trubisky has been hot and cold in a developmental season, but when he’s good, he’s very good. In his top five games, he has a 129.8 average passer rating (16 touchdown passes, one interception). In his six worst games, he has a 68.8 average rating (six touchdown passes, nine interceptions).
And regardless of their stage of development, the Bears are multi-dimensional and multifaceted on offense. With the 22nd-ranked passing offense in the NFL, they are one of five teams with five receivers with 399 yards or more this season. The other four are in the top 10.
All in all, Nagy sees a quarterback and an offense that are trending in the right direction.
“We spread the ball around,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘We’re able to run and pass. Our quarterback protects the football. He’s making good decisions. He’s gotten better overall. Our whole offense has gotten better. But we still have a ways to go. That’s why it’s important to get better each week.”
While the Bears’ defense is ready to go right now, Trubisky and the offense have one big step to take in the last two games against the 49ers and Vikings to be prepared to produce against playoff-quality defenses. The Bears have faced three defenses that rank in the top 10 in scoring or yards — the Seahawks, Bills and Vikings. In those three games, the Bears’ offense averaged 4.3 yards per play and 20.3 points per game. In their other 11 games, they’ve averaged 5.7 yards per play and 25.2 points per game.
While Nagy gladly stated his case, Trubisky kept his focus on the 49ers.
“We’ll get to the playoffs when we get there,” Trubisky said. “We know things will ramp up once we get [to the playoffs], but I do believe we’re ready, and we’ve just got to have that mindset. We’ve got to keep getting better and be ready for it no matter what.
“I don’t believe we’ve played our best football yet. You’ve got to have that mindset — stay hungry and humble, get after it and believe that our best football is ahead of us.”