Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Bears have come a long way quickly
By Michael C. Wright
Brandon Marshall’s revelation Wednesday that he almost “pulled a Dez Bryant” in the closing minutes of the team’s overtime loss on Dec. 1 at Minnesota should serve as a reminder of just how low the Chicago Bears had fallen at that point, compared to where they are now: in control of their own postseason destiny.
When stadium officials opened the doors to that locker room in the aftermath of that 23-20 loss in overtime, Marshall snuck away to a stool to be all by himself as the rest of his teammates lamented what might have been had the club taken advantage of the opportunity before them. As Marshall stared into space, likely a million things crossed his mind before general manager Phil Emery came over and whispered into his ear. At that precise moment, it appeared Marshall was either on the verge of breaking down in tears or just flat out going off.
That is, until Emery told him: “We’ve still got a chance.”
Judging from the demeanor in that defeated locker room that afternoon, perhaps none of the Bears truly believed that.
“It hurts,” left tackle Jermon Bushrod said that day. “We needed it. We needed it. We needed it to stay tied for first. Now we need a lot more help and we need to win out. We needed to win out, anyway. But we just needed this game.”
In another section of that locker room, reporters asked Bears coach Marc Trestman in multiple ways whether that loss effectively ended the club’s season at that point.
“There are some historical points of view that show that it doesn’t [end the season],” Trestman said. “We’ve got a long season left. We’ve got four games to go. There was a sign of a team that played very well today at times. We just didn’t play well enough all the time. There’s clearly evidence that we can move forward here, and I’m always going to feel that way.”
Trestman did more than ‘feel that way’ though. In the days after, he made the team believe the old cliché that all it needed to do was control what it could control and the rest would work itself out. And it has, thanks to Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker booting the Detroit Lions out of first place in the NFC North on Monday night with his game-winning 61-yard field goal.
Amazingly, just 15 days had passed between the Bears feeling all hope was lost (they’d never admit this) to euphoria of Tucker’s kick, which has birthed a focused and reinvigorated club with a real chance to capture the division, provided it takes care of business Sunday at Philadelphia, then at home on Dec. 29 against the Green Bay Packers. Give Trestman credit here. In the aftermath of that Dec. 1 loss at Minnesota, the Bears did as the coach said: they controlled what they could control with back-to-back victories over Dallas and Cleveland after the loss at Minnesota.
Now for Chicago, it’s business as usual.
“You wouldn’t know whether we won or lost. It’s been the same each and every day we’ve come back,” Trestman said on Wednesday. “The guys came to work. I made sure that we didn’t overexert ourselves with a lot of running today in practice. They’re still sore, as I said. It’s later in the year. We want to make sure guys are fresh. We practiced hard today and we practiced fast. But I blew the whistle quickly, so we didn’t extend the running like we normally would early in the season or in training camp. But their energy was good and their focus was very good. Right now the focus is not going to be distracted by anything other than we’ve got a really important game to play. It’s the most important game of the season. It’s the only one we have and we’re trying to get our team ready to play.”