A Bears win Sunday could exorcise ghosts of Packers rivalry for years to come
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The ghosts reappear twice a year:
Jay Cutler riding a stationary bike while backups played the Packers in the NFC title game in January 2011. Bears safety Chris Conte, one play away from clinching a playoff berth, letting Randall Cobb run past him for a 48-yard touchdown with 38 seconds to play in the 2013 season finale. Benny Cunningham fumbling out of bounds at the pylon last year and coach John Fox challenging the play, giving the Packers the ball.
When the Packers beat the Bears in the 2010 season finale, they began a string of 15 victories in 17 games against their rivals heading into the game Sunday at Soldier Field. The Packers kept the Bears from the Super Bowl in 2010 and the playoffs three years later. They hastened the firing of the Bears’ last two coaches.
The ghosts have haunted the Bears all decade.
“I don’t care,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “I won’t care.
“I care about us and our history and our tradition. I don’t care about what’s happened here in the past as far as streaks and wins and losses. To me, it means nothing. So our players haven’t talked about it; I’m pretty sure they don’t care, either. This is a new thing for us.”
The 9-4 Bears can exorcise the demons of their rivalry. They can clinch their first NFC North title since 2010 with a win against their rivals — or a Vikings loss to the Dolphins.
A win, they hope, would signal a changing of the guard in the NFL’s best rivalry.
The Bears will start only three players who are not under contract for next season. They believe quarterback Mitch Trubisky will only get better. They have Nagy, a coach who is becoming the envy of the league, and a defense that proved its dominance against the Rams.
The Packers still boast quarterback Aaron Rodgers — who orchestrated his latest Bears burial in the second half of the season opener — but otherwise enter the game a mess.
After overhauling their front office, hiring a new defensive coordinator and splurging on free agency in the offseason, their season spun out of control.
Two weeks ago, after losing to the Cardinals at home, they fired coach Mike McCarthy, who had reached the playoffs nine times and won them a Super Bowl. Two days later, interim coach Joe Philbin fired associate head coach Winston Moss after he tweeted that Rodgers needed to be held to a higher standard.
For the Bears to turn the tide, they have to beat a rival that, traditionally, has had their number.
“Traditionally? I don’t really do the ‘traditionally,’ ” inside linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m all about this day and age and getting it done this season. We’ve worked too hard. We have a good thing in front of us.”
A Bears win will all but eliminate the 5-7-1 Packers from the playoffs. The Packers are out if they lose and the Vikings win, or if they lose and the Redskins and Eagles win or tie.
“That’s just a bonus on top of it, a little icing on it,” Trevathan said. “But we have to take care of our business. We’re not looking to just mess up something. We’re just looking to go ahead and get what we want.”
But first they have to slay the Packers.
“I’m not about the big elephant in the room that no one talks about,” Nagy said. “I’m more than fine with them understanding where we’re at. But I don’t want them to change how they prepare. . . . Just play how you’ve been playing.”
For the first time in forever, that would be enough to beat their rivals. Maybe for years to come.