The Chicago Bears don’t give a darn who they play next week, and that’s great.
The Minnesota Vikings had everything to play for on Sunday against the Chicago Bears, while the Bears, realistically, had very little up for grabs. Unless a miracle occurred (spoiler alert, it didn’t) and the San Francisco 49ers beat the Los Angeles Rams, the Bears were locked into the No. 3 seed.
As a result, the only thing the Bears had to play for was having a hand in determining who would be coming to Soldier Field next week to face them in the NFC Wild Card matchup.
The Bears went into halftime up 13-3, and no doubt were checking the scores of other games. At that point, they knew the 49ers were toast. They also saw the Philadelphia Eagles were up 10-0 on the Washington Redskins.
Realistically, head coach Matt Nagy knew the Bears controlled who their opponent would be. Philadelphia was going to finish off the Redskins, who were playing with their fourth-string quarterback. So the question was, do they want to pull their starters and face the Vikings — who managed only 164 total yards, or the resurgent Eagles with folk hero Nick Foles?
The way in which the Bears manhandled the Vikings this season, and the fact that Kirk Cousins is now 4-25 against teams with a winning record, there were likely many fans hoping the Bears pulled their starters. It seemed like the more desirable option than facing the Eagles who seem to have rekindled a little of that magic they rode to a Super Bowl victory last year.
But Matt Nagy said screw it. Maybe the Vikings would have been the easier opponent, but in the NFL you can’t take anything for granted. He also recognized the importance of heading into the playoffs with momentum. And so he left in his starters to stay sharp and kept their foot on the gas the rest of the game.
In doing so, Nagy sent a message to his team and the rest of the NFC, and that was they don’t care who their opponent is because they know they can defeat anyone, and are scared of no one. Perhaps a team less confident in their own abilities would have played the percentages and folded like a cheap suit in the second half.
But not these Bears. Not this year’s version of the Monsters of the Midway. They’re not afraid to take on the defending Super Bowl champs. Hell, they relish the opportunity, and want everyone’s best shot, because they are confident their best is better.
Nagy also sent a message to the NFC North. In going 5-1 against his division, he and his Bears ended the Packers and Vikings seasons. Perhaps he could have eased up in the second half, but he didn’t — and sent a message that the Bears have arrived now, and for the foreseeable future. And that’s a scary proposition for the rest of the North and the NFC at large.