After a red-hot/ice-cold opener against the Packers that was highlighted by Khalil Mack’s enticing debut, the Bears enter Week 2 against the Seahawks with one glaring, blaring, daunting red flag: public optimism.
Encouraged by a one-point loss to the Packers and (mostly) Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field, almost everybody in Chicago believes the Bears are going to win. Even in Vegas, the Bears are 3½-point favorites against a Seahawks team that even in decline went 9-7 last year.
Nothing too wrong with that, except when you consider the ominous recent history of this team: The Bears under John Fox couldn’t stand prosperity. Too often in the rare instances when things were looking up, they fell flat. The Bears were 1-7 straight-up as Vegas-line favorites in the Fox era — with six of those games at home. The only victory was against the winless Browns last year, 20-3 at Soldier Field. That really doesn’t even count.
Now they have a winnable game against a team that is in a Blackhawks-like transition stage — a former champion with a shell of its championship roster still believing it can recapture the magic of the glory days. And with All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright and Pro Bowl wide receiver Doug Baldwin out with injuries, the Bears have an even greater chance to deliver a harsh reality. They are favorites at home facing a team they were 1½-point underdogs against on the road three years ago — a huge difference considering the Bears are 14-31 since that last meeting, while the Seahawks are 29-17-1.
The question is whether the Bears, feeling so good about themselves and where they’re headed, have the fortitude and mental toughness to pounce on opportunity and deliver the lethal blow. They altered the dynamic of the roster when they added Mack, but have they changed the culture? A week after they blew an opportunity to put the hammer down against the Packers — punctuated more by cornerback Kyle Fuller’s dropped interception than any other second-half gaffe — the Bears have to prove they can churn disappointment into performance.
“That’s a valid question that we have,” coach Matt Nagy said. “And we’re going to be tested with that and how we react to it. We have a young team, but we also have some veterans that understand how important it is to put things behind you and focus on what’s ahead.”
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Getting over the debacle against the Packers is the easy part. Now comes the tough part — achieving that turn-the-corner, watershed moment.
“I’m not wondering if the culture’s changed. I know the culture’s changed,” said linebacker Sam Acho, who had a front-row seat to the entire Fox era. “The cool part for me was after that game no one was satisfied [with coming close]. I heard Khalil Mack say after the game, ‘We’ve got to get more pressure on the quarterback. With all our leaders — Akiem [Hicks], Mitch [Trubisky], everybody’s like, ‘Man, we’ve got to get better.’ Eddie Jackson said, ‘We’ve got to force more turnovers.’ Akiem’s not satisfied and he did really well, too.
“I think that points to the culture change. We’re not -satisfied with just playing. The fun is in winning.”