Corny? Overly optimistic? Credit steady Matt Nagy for Bears making season interesting

Nagy never wavered, and his motivational tactics never grew annoying with his team. At every turn, he’s had his finger on the right button with his players. And now the Bears have a shot at an improbable run to the playoffs.

SHARE Corny? Overly optimistic? Credit steady Matt Nagy for Bears making season interesting
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Matt Nagy and the Bears are still alive, perhaps surprisingly, in the NFC playoff race.

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No matter how dicey the Bears’ playoff chances get over the next few weeks — when they’ll need an amazing run to make it — coach Matt Nagy won’t concede until it becomes mathematically impossible.

He has hoped so many times that the Bears have hit a turning point, only for them to be flattened again. But this seems much more concrete after their thorough 31-24 toppling of the Cowboys on Thursday night at Soldier Field.

It’s clear they have no thought of folding.

“Everybody’s seeing what type of people we have on this football team,” Nagy said. “No one’s flinched. We’ve pulled together. We’ve become even tighter. Are we gonna be perfect? No. Are we gonna coach perfect? No. But we’re gonna do everything we can to be as good as we can.”

It’s Nagy’s most admirable and refreshing quality. No matter how bleak or narrow the path, he’s defiantly optimistic. And there’s no doubt after listening to him all season that it’s authentic.

He was steadfast through the ups and downs — mostly downs, considering this team arrived in Bourbonnais for training camp talking not just Super Bowl but dynasty.

It wouldn’t have been a surprise if the motivational tactics that made him so beloved last season wore thin in the locker room this year, but that didn’t happen. His players buy what he has been saying.

“He’s still positive,” left tackle Charles Leno said. “He’s still upbeat. He’s not changing. He brings the same message. It helps us.

“When you’ve got coaches changing and, ‘Oh, we’ve got to scramble,’ that’s when bad things start to happen. But when you keep that same message, good things happen.”

Whatever Nagy’s faults might be, he always seems to have his finger on exactly the right button with his players.

He has talked often about the four-game losing streak and how the Bears would one day reap a reward for fighting through it rather than punting on the season.

He’s not letting it go.

“I’m gonna always go back to the way that our coaches and our players have handled that four-game [losing streak],” Nagy said. “No one got rattled. And it could’ve been easy to get rattled. But we fought through it.”

Nagy believed the old Bears were back when he saw them eke one out against the lowly Lions on Thanksgiving. It came off more that he simply wanted it to be true rather than it actually being true. But his players echoed it.

And then, finally, there was undeniable evidence supporting it Thursday. The Bears took on a decent opponent, and everything about them looked right.

“Right now it doesn’t feel like one of those deals where if we don’t hold them to under 14 points, we don’t have a chance to win,” Nagy said. “Right now, we feel like we’re finally — all three phases — working together. When you have that going into most games, you’re gonna have a chance to win.”

From a broad perspective, this season was already a letdown two months ago. And with the Packers and Chiefs looming the next two weeks, the odds are still against the Bears pulling this off. Of their final four games, Thursday’s against the talented but middling Cowboys was the one they were most expected to win. Even if they sneak into the playoffs with nine or 10 wins, this season isn’t what it should have been.

“Here we are at 7-6, [but] who knows what we’re gonna be?” Nagy said. “We have some really good teams coming up. But our guys, as you can see, are just focused on winning.”

After everything imploded, who ever thought the Bears would even make it interesting down the stretch? They looked done.

One guy definitely thought it was possible: Coach Brightside, with a legion of players behind him.

And, at least for now, he’s finally right.

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