Bears Make Belief A Reality As NFC North Champions

The Bears are back in the playoffs after beating the Packers, 24-17.

Chris Emma
December 16, 2018 - 6:45 pm
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Hope arrived to the Bears with coach Matt Nagy, and it grew into something real.

Back before spring became the summer and these new Bears began working together, they had the 40-year-old Nagy, set for his first head coaching opportunity, telling them to believe a day like Sunday would be possible -- that they could win the NFC North, reach the playoffs and dream even bigger.

Nagy noticed the potential was truly legitimate by training camp in July, when the Bears' schemes and personnel began to click. He realized his team may be something special after it beat the reigning division champion Vikings on Nov. 18. In time, being great wasn't just an idea for the Bears, it started to become part of their identity.

On Sunday, the Bears delivered on behalf of Nagy and this success-starved city, beating the rival Packers 24-17 at Soldier Field to clinch the NFC North crown with two games remaining in the regular season. It marks Chicago's first playoff berth since the 2010 season, and the Bears were savoring it.

"It's a humbling experience for all of us," Nagy said of his Bears' day back on top.

Haugh: Bears thinking big after clinching NFC North

Pride was strong inside Soldier Field as the final seconds ticked off the clock. The celebration began after Allen Robinson recovered Mason Crosby's onside kick with 10 seconds remaining and Mitchell Trubisky led the Bears through their favorite play in victory formation. Fans danced on the steep stadium staircases, and players stayed down on the field to take in the moment. 

Tackle Charles Leno Jr., a Bear since 2014, enjoyed it more than anybody else by proposing to his girlfriend, Jennifer, at midfield. She said yes.

"I just had a feeling," said Leno, who planned the proposal with the confidence the Bears would win. "I knew the way we prepared this week. I knew our team was ready. I just had a feeling.

"This team is resilient. I love going to work with these guys every day. We believe. Us in this locker room believe."

It wasn't just the division title that the Bears savored. It was that they clinched it against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who have haunted them for years. Entering Sunday, Rodgers was 17-4 in his career against the Bears, who had beaten their rivals only three times this decade.

Nagy didn't care one bit about the Bears' recent history against the Packers, only telling his team to remember its season-opening collapse at Lambeau Field. That was the game that he hoped would mark the Bears' arrival. Instead, it brought heartbreak and another round of punch lines that have been so prevalent for years.

After his Bears blew a 20-point second-half lead in that game, Nagy told his players they should let it sting but grow from it. Sunday revealed they most certainly had. 

Tied at 14-14 in the fourth quarter and with Rodgers finding his form, the Bears produced a go-ahead touchdown drive that was led by quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to tight end Trey Burton with just more than 10 minutes left. Trubisky had been hard on himself for the loss at Lambeau Field. This time, he led the Bears to victory.

"We've accomplished a lot," Trubisky said. "But I think I'm most proud of just the type of guys we have in the locker room, the culture we created. We know that nobody really believed in us on the outside in the preseason or even throughout the season. But we knew that type of team we had, and we knew we just needed to keep getting better each and every week.

"We still got a long ways to go. We just want to keep building and keep getting better."

Bernstein: Defense seals NFC North crown for Bears

After failing to finish that night in Green Bay, the Chicago defense closed out the win this time. With 3:14 remaining and Rodgers attempting to lead another comeback, his record run of 402 consecutive passes without an interception ended as Bears safety Eddie Jackson picked off a deflected ball.

The Packers added a field goal late to make it a one-score game, but the onside kick landed in the arms of Robinson, meaning Rodgers wouldn't get the chance for some Hail Mary heroics. 

The Bears improved to 10-4 and are in line for the No. 3 seed in the NFC.

"We know that we're a resilient team," Leno said. "We're fighters. And we're NFC North champions now."

This victory was personal for the Bears. Linebacker Leonard Floyd had heard the smack talk from Rodgers in their first meeting. The Bears remembered every moment from that night, especially the feeling inside their locker room. This time, it was all different.

Dancing inside "Club Dub," with the music pumping and lights flashing, the Bears savored their victory knowing what all went into attaining it. They remembered the belief Nagy instilled from when he was hired last January and cherished how it all came together. 

Hope is a powerful attribute, and the Bears have earned theirs.

"They know that we're not finished," Nagy said. "That we want to continue doing what we're doing and not be satisfied and content with this. We know that we want more."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​​