Determination Driving Bears Forward From 2018

"We did something special," Eddie Goldman says. "It wasn't special enough."

Chris Emma
May 22, 2019 - 4:58 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- From where the Bears left off last season, defeated and dejected after their one-point loss to the Eagles in the wild-card round, coach Matt Nagy had a feeling his team would come back with a renewed determination.

Nagy saw a telltale sign of that Monday, when he looked around at the start of voluntary OTAs at Halas Hall and saw perfect attendance on the practice field. On Tuesday, the team held an optional workout, and nearly every player was present. Already, Nagy senses a team eager to get back to winning.

"They understand how big and how important culture is to us," Nagy said.

"It's wildfire. It's hard to stop."

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A year ago, the new coach Nagy set his sights building a culture for these Bears. Now, it's clear as can be to every player on the field.

The Bears are still the team that was inside that losing locker room in January. They all understand what could've been accomplished. The ending still hurts.

"We did something special," defensive lineman Eddie Goldman said. "It wasn't special enough. But we just want to take more steps forward in that direction, try to finish up better.

"You can't help to feel that way. We were so close. I don't even like thinking about it."

All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson is in agreement, like many of his other teammates. The final minutes of that heartbreaking playoff loss at Soldier Field are simmering in their stomachs.

But here are the Bears back to work together with a common goal.

"Hopefully a Super Bowl," Jackson said. "That's always the goal. And a lot of success for us as a whole team."

Defense led the Bears from worst to first in the NFC North and 12-4 mark in the regular season in 2018, while the offense left more to be desired. Chicago was first in scoring defense at 17.7 points per game, while the offense's 343.9 yards per game ranked 21st in the NFL. The Bears were ninth in with 26.3 points per game, though that came with big-play contributions from the defense and special teams.

Third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, 24, faces plenty of pressure in leading his Bears forward in 2019. Nagy can already recognize the improvements in him.

"Without a doubt, I can say with pure conviction we’re in (level) 202 right now," Nagy said of Trubisky. "And we don’t need to have a live game to see mentally where he’s at with calling the plays. I mean, he’s doing things in the last two days that last year at this time he wasn’t even close to. So that’s exciting."

While Trubisky has taken ownership of leading the offense forward, the collective mindset of the defense -- one with nine of its 11 starters back -- is about getting even better.

Superstar pass rusher Khalil Mack told new outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino that he wants to be the best ever at his position. Jackson believes he can build off a breakout campaign last season. Individuals want better for themselves and each other.

"I got a taste of what it felt like to really be one of the top-tier teams," Goldman said. "Everybody on the team wants that again. We got the right mindset.

"We did earn respect. But this is a new year. Just because it happened last year, it doesn't mean it will happen this year."

It's all music to Nagy's ears. In his first meeting with the Bears last April as their new head coach, Nagy spoke of belief that his team could make the playoffs and do something special.

The Bears are working through this offseason now believing they can go further. There's no lack of motivation.

"We won last year," Nagy said. "We were 12 and, whatever, five. We lost in the first round of the playoffs. That's not good enough. We got to understand that. No complacency. And I think that's what our guys are driven to do right now."

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