Matriarch Virginia McCaskey preached confidence — and Bears’ defense listened
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Six days before the season opener, the Bears gathered in an auditorium inside Halas Hall. On the stage, wearing a navy shirt with the orange Bears-head logo on it, sat Virginia McCaskey, the team’s 95-year-old matriarch.
Over a half-hour, she told the players about the history of the Bears — and what she has learned from watching each year’s iteration.
“One of the things Mrs. McCaskey came in and said to us was that teams that won a lot of games around here were the most confident,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said Tuesday.
Three games into a young season, the Bears’ defense has that part covered.
The unit ranks fifth in the NFL with 289 yards allowed per game and second with 65.3 rushing yards allowed. The Bears lead the NFL with 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles. Only two teams have more interceptions than the Bears’ five.
“It gives you a great deal of confidence . . . and we just have to keep it moving forward,” Hicks said. “Stay productive. Stay on our assignments and just keep rolling. We’ve got the blueprint.
“We already know how to do it. We’ve seen how we bounced back after a tough loss. We’ve seen how we bounced back after a good win. We’ve just got to keep rolling.’’
The confidence goes beyond mere numbers. Hicks is excited by what your average fan can’t see: Players are carrying out their assignments, whether they’re near the ball or not.
“Fitting in the right spot in order to make another player make a play,” he said.
When the Cardinals took a 14-0 lead Sunday, inside linebacker Danny Trevathan said no one panicked.
“We wanted to suck the life out of the stadium,’’ Trevathan said. “We knew we were going to respond better. We knew we were gonna come away with the ‘W.’ ”
Asked where the confidence level was for the Bears’ defense, Hicks repeated the same word three times — “High, high, high,” he said — before tracing the roots of the unit. He said the Bears knew they were a top-10 defense before they traded for outside linebacker Khalil Mack a week before the season opener.
“I think going forward, we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could be even better,” Hicks said. “And I think we’ve shown that so far.”
On Monday, responding to whether he was worried about any potential schism between the stellar defense and underperforming offense, coach Matt Nagy said there will be a time when the offense has to bail the team out. Trevathan joked that it wouldn’t happen — or at least he hoped the defense wouldn’t need help — before getting serious.
“Our offense is gonna get rolling, and we’re gonna need them,” Trevathan said. “So defense, we’re just gonna keep battling, and the offense is gonna get it clicking. They’ve got so many weapons over there. It’s going to be spectacular.”
A victory Sunday against the Buccaneers would give the Bears their first three-game winning streak since the first games of Marc Trestman’s head-coaching career in 2013.
The Bears’ confidence could grow even more during their bye week.
“I think it can be big,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “You just want to continue to keep that momentum rolling. . . . The thing for us is we haven’t peaked as a team yet. We haven’t put it all together yet. The defense has played outstanding. Offensively, we’ve played good at times and gotten points when we’ve needed, put drives together when we needed to. But we haven’t really put it all together.”
Imagine the teamwide swagger when the Bears do put it all together. McCaskey can.
“She believes in us,” Hicks said. “That’s something we carry with us every time we step on the field.”