Two weeks ago, the Bears were the biggest disaster in the NFL.
Two victories later, they’re not even in the top three.
How they got from calling emergency meetings after the Browns debacle to determine their starting quarterback, offensive scheme and play-caller to playing the Packers for first place in the NFC North on Sunday shows just how week-to-week the NFL can be.
The last two victories weren’t a referendum on the Bears — the Lions remain winless, the Raiders reeling — and upcoming games against the Packers and Buccaneers will be a truer test. But the last two weeks definitely have steadied the franchise.
“Obviously, we put some bad tape on film in the beginning of the year,” safety Tashaun Gipson said Tuesday. “Once we kind of settled down, everybody kind of homed in. We were playing our brand of football, offensively, defensively and on special teams. And once it’s clicking in this league — it’s a momentum league. Once you get that momentum, the ball is rolling, man. You feel like you can beat anybody, you can play with anybody. And that’s the phase that we’re in right now.”
If the old baseball axiom that momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher transfers to football, the Bears are in trouble: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is coming to town Sunday. But the Bears think they’re catching the Packers at a good time.
“The timing of this matchup is very perfect,” Gipson said. “I think we’re hitting our stride; they’re playing good football. So it’s going to be good-on-good, obviously. We’re excited about that matchup. . . . You can’t be in this building and not feel the sense of this rivalry with Green Bay.”
After the Bears gained only 47 yards on 42 plays against the Browns, guard Cody Whitehair said he noticed a “shift, mentally — the team just taking ownership of what we put on the field.” That started in practice two weeks ago, he said.
“I think we knew what we put out against the Browns was not us — and we didn’t want to go down that slope,” he said. “I just think it was everybody collectively getting involved and saying, ‘Let’s turn this thing around.’ ”
Asked to describe the shift, Whitehair settled on a phrase.
“The relentless effort to try to get things right,” he said.
Gipson has been on teams unable to pull out of tailspins — he played for a three-win Browns squad and a three-win Jaguars team. In Cleveland, his teams won four games one season and five in another. He pointed to the Bears’ experience — at the start of the season, they had the NFL’s oldest team — as one reason he thought things would improve.
“Nobody’s panicking, man,” Gipson said. “Yeah, we put out some bad football, but we understand the guys that we have. And we’re mature enough to understand this is a long season. . . . Little things we can clean up right now, obviously — but we’re catching our stride. And it’s exciting for us.”
After he emerged from an ear-shattering locker room Sunday in Las Vegas, safety Eddie Jackson pointed to the resilience of the team.
“Guys lock in, we block out all the noise and we rally around each other and continue to fight,” he said. “That’s probably the most special thing about the type of group we have on defense: We continue to fight.
“When things don’t go good, we don’t blame or point a finger. We put our head down, and we continue to fight and continue to compete and make plays.”