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After throttling Rams, Bears defense looks to regain fever pitch vs. Packers

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is an old-school guy who doesn’t revel in success or take victory laps. By the time the locker-room disco ball starts to slow down, he’s already on to the next game.

But the 15-6 victory over the Rams on Sunday seemed like a legitimate exception. The Rams’ offense came in averaging 32.3 points per game and didn’t even get a touchdown. Quarterback Jared Goff came in with a 109.9 passer rating and was intercepted four times and left with a 19.1 rating — the lowest rating in the NFL in a complete game since 2016. Todd Gurley came in as the league’s leading rusher, averaging 97.9 yards per game, and was held to 28 yards on 11 carries.

Even Fangio had to be thrilled with that. 

“I tried to do a cartwheel, but I couldn’t,” Fangio said in typical deadpan.

Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) is tackled by Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (94) and inside linebacker Danny Trevathan (59) during the Bears' 15-6 victory Sunday at Soldier Field. | David Banks/AP photo

But Fangio acknowledged this was a performance to be proud of — a good team rising to the occasion and playing at another level when it needed it.

In the last 20 years, only one team that finished the season averaging 30 points or more was held without a touchdown with its starting quarterback going all the way: The 2000 St. Louis Rams (33.8 ppg), who lost to the Panthers 16-3 in Week 14 when Kurt Warner threw four interceptions after missing five games with a broken finger.

“Yeah, you enjoy it,” Fangio said. “But really, it was a lot of satisfaction — happy for our players, knowing what it meant for them as individuals and as a unit. The Sunday night games, you get home later and then you have to get right back at it, so that curtails the celebrating. But it was a very good performance and I was happy for our players.”

That’s as effusive as Fangio gets.

“He’s pretty much Bill Belichick-esque — you never know how he’s feeling,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I was asking one of our coaches, ‘How does he act in the press box? Does he get excited?’ But after the game, he shakes our hand and tells us, ‘Good job.’ So we know he’s pleased.”

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Before this season, Fangio had used his 49ers teams as a measuring stick for his Bears defenses. But this team is approaching that level, if it hasn’t already surpassed it. Not only is the talent level close, but against the Rams, the Bears played with an intensity level that made Fangio’s 49ers teams particularly tough to play against.

“That’s very important,” Fangio said. “That goes back to preparation … getting your mind right to play an NFL game, particularly against a quality opponent like [the Rams] … and just as equally quality Sunday [against the Packers]. Emotion and having your mind right plays a big part in football.”

Therein lies the challenge for the Bears Sunday at Soldier Field. After reaching a fever pitch in a marquee game against the Rams, can they ratchet it back up to a similar level against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers? 

“That’s one of our goals,” Amukamara said. “He really wants us to put back-to-back great games, and that’s our plan this week.”

Fangio said it’s a matter of setting high standards, with veterans leading the way. But as this team continues to grow, there’s a faith in Fangio that is at the root of everything they do.

“It starts with him,” Amukamara said. “He sets our goals. He sets our tempo. He calls the plays and his calls are very calculated. There’s a lot of details that go into them in preparation and we just execute them.

“I just really hope — I know he’s going to be sought-after for a lot of head-coaching jobs — I just hope he stays as long as I’m here, selfishly.”