‘Mentally calloused’ Bears embrace underdog role for rest of the season
The position might fit the Bears, given that they couldn’t shoulder the mantle of presumptive Super Bowl contender.
It took 17 plays, four third-down conversions and a two-yard touchdown run by Ezekiel Elliott for the Cowboys to sap the energy from a rollicking Soldier Field on Thursday.
On the sideline, however, the Bears weren’t cowed by the Cowboys’ opening possession, which was the longest by any team in the NFL this season. They had been through worse.
‘‘There wasn’t an ounce of flinch,’’ coach Matt Nagy said. ‘‘Nothing. No one cared. I mean, yeah, we cared — we want to stop them — but there was no panic. That was nothing. We’ve been through a lot more. We’re mentally calloused right now, and I like that.’’
The Bears chose a heck of a way to develop that callus, losing five of their first eight games, including an oh-for-October.
But they’ve won four of their five games since, knowing another loss likely would extinguish their playoff chances. And while none of those victories came against a winning team, Nagy said he appreciates what they proved about his players’ character.
The Bears will have to channel that character into a new role — underdogs — in each of their final three games.
‘‘I’m OK with that,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘For our guys, it’s different. Last year, there was a different type of mentality because what we didn’t know, we didn’t know. There were no expectations. This year, [there were] a lot of expectations.
‘‘So now here we are at 7-6. Who knows, really, what we’re going to be at? We know we have some really good teams coming up. Our guys, as you can see, they’re just focused on winning each week. That’s what they’re doing.’’
The underdog role might fit the Bears, given that they couldn’t shoulder the mantle of presumptive Super Bowl contender. Sky-high expectations, which were piled on as early as the fan convention in June, were met with a midseason thud.
‘‘You can’t fix the past,’’ receiver Allen Robinson said. ‘‘But we can have control over what’s in the future for us, and that’s the next day. We know the situation we’re in.’’
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky also read from the underdog playbook when he was asked what the 31-24 victory against the Cowboys meant to the Bears.
‘‘I think it says we’re resilient, stick together, believe in each other even when nobody else believes in us,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s a special group in that locker room. We want to keep this feeling going, focusing on the little things, focusing hard, sticking together, doing our jobs.’’
The Bears have been underdogs only three times this season — at the Eagles, at the Rams and against the Cowboys — but they likely will match that total in their final three regular-season games. The host Packers, visiting Chiefs and host Vikings all figure to be betting favorites against the Bears.
Nagy is embracing it.
‘‘These guys have proven to me and our staff what they’re all about,’’ he said. ‘‘Never once did they ever start pointing fingers. We’ve become closer through all of it, and I think that, regardless of what happens the rest of this year, I know this: I’ve learned a lot about who we are [in terms of] character, and I love that about them.’’
Nagy knows not to expect a parade because his team is 7-6. But he appreciates the Bears have put themselves in position to play meaningful games in December.
‘‘Someday, I’ll look back on this season and I’ll always come back to how we handled where we’re at right now,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘And I know we still have games left, but this is their moment to be able to, ‘Hey, just keep doing what we’re doing.’ ’’
NOTE: The NFL fined Bears linebacker Leonard Floyd $21,056 for a hit to the helmet on Lions quarterback David Blough on Thanksgiving Day, a source said. Lions safety Tavon Wilson was fined the same amount for an unpenalized hit to the head on Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the same game.
The league also fined the Lions for failing to update quarterback Matthew Stafford’s status before their loss Nov. 10 at Soldier Field. Stafford was ruled inactive 90 minutes before the game, but reports the night before indicated he might miss it. For not ruling him out sooner, the NFL fined the Lions $75,000, coach Matt Patricia $25,000 and general manager Bob Quinn $10,000.