HEADLINE

After winning division, Bears eye homefield advantage

The Sports Xchange

December 17, 2018 at 5:56 pm.

It took very little time for Bears coach Matt Nagy Monday to come up with an answer about whether he really wants to go after winning a first-round bye or should rest up players.

Considering two key injuries the Bears have to deal with after their 24-17 win over Green Bay to clinch the NFC North, resting starters might seem a viable option.

“Of course, I mean, you wanna ask me if I want the first-round bye, or the No. 1 seed? Absolutely, give it to me right now,” Nagy said.

The Rams have lost two straight and are only a game ahead of the Bears with two left in the battle for a first-round bye. Even top-seeded New Orleans might be within striking distance considering the Saints’ final three games are with Pittsburgh and two with Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

So with the Bears facing San Francisco and Minnesota yet, Sunday’s celebration wasn’t quitting time.

“Our best ball has not been played,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We still have a lot more to do for this city and for this team.”

Nagy pointed ahead to the playoffs and the next few weeks.

“I think No. 1, I mentioned it yesterday is that it’s OK to celebrate and enjoy last night and yesterday, but we have bigger things that we’re trying to achieve,” Nagy said Monday. “And I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge for us where we’re at is understanding, OK, we accomplished a good goal but that’s not enough.

“And so how do you make sure everyone understands that. And with that said, now you take it in to the last two weeks of the season and there’s the ability for us to be, basically, four different seeds. Some are slimmer than others. But take that into account, it makes it easy. You go play, and you play to win and nothing changes. You literally control what you can control.”
Apparently, it’s not quitting time on the season for either Bear injured Sunday, safety Eddie Jackson and linebacker Aaron Lynch.
Jackson suffered a right ankle sprain on a return while sliding awkwardly after ending Aaron Rodgers’ interception-free streak at 402 passes. Lynch left with an injured right elbow.
“I don’t think we’re there for either one of them, as far as the (highest) level of concern,” Nagy said. “Once we get more info back on them, then I’ll be able to answer that better. I don’t think either one of them is season-ending.”
Like in any big victory, numerous Bears who seem to fly under the radar in many games, came up big at the moment they were needed most.
One was wide receiver Josh Bellamy, a key player on special teams who put the Packers in a hole by fielding a punt in the air at the 2-yard line. He also made the catch of the game, an 18-yarder over the middle to help set the Bears up for their second touchdown at the Green Bay 12.
Bellamy hauled it in under very tight coverage.
“Again, he’s been stepping in for us at good times,” Nagy said. “Josh really knows this offense. He understands it ? all three positions. And then to come in and make that big catch, that was a contested catch. That thing was covered, and he made that catch. That was a huge play in the game.”
In addition to Bellamy, tight end Adam Shaheen had two catches for 39 yards and Jordan Howard contributed with a 15-yard catch as the Bears spread around the ball well.
“I think, honestly, when it comes down to it with these guys, a lot of it is just confidence, just playing with a true belief in yourself, not worrying about if you make a mistake,” Nagy said. “Some guys, if they’ve been in that position before, now they’re in a position where they can just go play. And if you drop a ball or miss a block, we’ll tell you that. But then we won’t harp on it. You just go fix it.”
“Bellamy has been doing some great stuff for this year.”
Defensively, Sherrick McManis might have made the player emerging from shadows to make the biggest contribution. He played the nickel defensive back spot vacated due to Bryce Callahan’s broken foot and avoided huge mistakes. McManis had a major role in holding Randall Cobb, a longtime Bears nemesis, to three catches for 30 yards.
“The other thing too that needs to be brought up is I thought that Sherrick McManis played lights out yesterday,” Nagy said, pointing to a third-down deep ball McManis knocked away from Cobb. “Aaron threw a bolt-and-run ball to Randall Cobb down at the goal line and Sherrick made one of the best plays of the game.
“And usually that ball is completed. That’s one of those throws and those completions that just happens with those guys, and Sherrick made a great play. That was a better, so, the very first week against Green Bay Rodgers dropped a dime for about 55 in the corner of the end zone. It was a great defense. It was better offense, right? I thought yesterday that was great offense and it was better defense.”
The other player Nagy pointed at was much-maligned outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who had two sacks.? Floyd had no sacks in the first half of the season but is now at four.
“He was everywhere,” Nagy said. “Talk about relentless. I mean, and it started with the very first play of the game.”
Earlier in the season, Floyd was without a sack but was playing his position well. Now he has four sacks.
Nagy said it’s possible Floyd had been putting too much pressure on himself due to his lack of sacks.
“He had to be patient with himself because you could start pressing in those situations when the numbers aren’t there but you know that you’re helping out the way you’re playing,” Nagy said. “So sometimes the numbers things can get out of whack just because you don’t have the sacks.?
“But it’s starting to turn up now. You’re starting to see more numbers from him. But to me he’s still flying around, doing everything. He’s practicing hard. And obviously I don’t think he’s pressing anymore.”

PLAYER NOTES
–LB Leonard Floyd has all four of sacks in the second half of the season after getting two in Sunday’s win over Green Bay. “He was everywhere,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “Talk about relentless. I mean, and it started with the very first play of the game.”
–S Eddie Jackson sprained his right ankle on a return while sliding
awkwardly after ending Aaron Rodgers’ interception-free streak at 402 passes. Coach Matt Nagy did not have an update as of Monday.
–S Aaron Lynch exited Sunday’s win over Green Bay with a right elbow injury. Coach Matt Nagy did not have an update as of Monday.
–LB Khalil Mack tied a season high with five tackles in Sunday’s win over Green Bay. Mack also made five tackles in a 16-14 win at Arizona on Sept. 23.
–RB Jordan Howard rushed 19 times for 60 yards. He scored his first rushing TD since getting two at Buffalo on Nov. 4.