LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Forget about draft position and postseason chances. Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy is expecting a challenge when his team visits lowly Jacksonville.
Chicago stayed in the playoff race with a 33-27 victory at Minnesota on Sunday, evening its record at 7-7. The Bears have won two in a row since a six-game losing streak, while the Jaguars (1-13) are in the lead in the race for the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft after the New York Jets’ 23-20 victory at the Los Angeles Rams.
While Jacksonville is playing out the string in another losing season, Nagy brushed off the idea that the Bears might have an easy weekend in Florida.
"It’s two real simple things for us," Nagy said Monday. "No. 1, if anybody watched that Rams-Jets game yesterday you can see what it means to play in the NFL. It does not matter. And No. 2, we haven’t done anything yet. So that’s the way we approach this thing."
Chicago trails Arizona by one game in the playoff chase for the final NFC wild card, and Nagy pointed out it hasn’t been that long since the Bears were a struggling team.
Then the running game took off and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky improved, giving the Bears a legitimate shot at the playoffs. After Sunday’s game against the Jaguars, the Bears host NFC North champion Green Bay in their regular-season finale. The Cardinals face San Francisco and the Rams in their last two games.
Nagy pointed out the Jaguars have played close games even if their last two were blowout losses to Tennessee and Baltimore. The Jaguars lost 27-25 to Cleveland and 27-24 in overtime to Minnesota before the two blowout losses.
"So the last thing we’re going to do is look past anybody and that’s just not where we’re at," Nagy said. "So we’re going to be completely focused."
Handing the ball to David Montgomery has turned around the Bears season. He became the first Bears rusher since Jordan Howard in 2016 with at least 100 yards in back-to-back games after he gained 146 yards on 32 carries against Minnesota. He has gone over 100 in three of the last four games.
Chicago also has been helped by changes on its offensive line, with rookie Sam Mustipher becoming the starting center and Alex Bars coming in to play right guard. Cody Whitehair moved from center to left guard, and Germain Ifedi shifted from right guard to right tackle.
In the four games since the changes on the line, Montgomery has averaged 108.5 yards. He averaged 52.4 yards in his first nine games.
"We were running a new (blocking) scheme, so now everybody’s getting it down and it’s going well," Montgomery said. "The offense, we’ve started trusting each other and we’re having fun doing it."
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Defense against the run. Chicago allowed Dalvin Cook to rush for 132 yards on 24 attempts. Cook’s rushing total was the most yards the Bears have given up to any back this season.
"We don’t like the fact that we gave up so much rushing yards," linebacker Danny Trevathan said. "That’s not us at all. We’re gonna get that figured out. I know that for sure."
Wide receiver Darnell Mooney. The 2020 fifth-round draft pick made four more receptions against the Vikings, including an 8-yard touchdown. Mooney now has 46 catches on the season. On Sunday, he broke a team rookie receptions record for wide receivers that had stood since Harlon Hill made 45 in 1954.
Wide receiver Anthony Miller. After surging with 26 catches in six games, Miller has stepped back with just three receptions for 29 yards over the past two games.
Running back Cordarrelle Patterson left Sunday’s win with a knee injury and had only one carry. He did return, but only to return kicks. Nagy is uncertain about Patterson’s availability for this week. ... Tight end Demetrius Harris suffered an ankle injury of unknown severity and left Sunday’s game. ... Cornerback Buster Skrine (concussion), cornerback Jaylon Johnson (shoulder) and safety Deon Bush (foot) missed the game and their status will be updated later in the week.
3 — The Bears have scored 30 or more points in each of the last three games. The last time they were able to do this was in 2013.
At Jacksonville (1-13) on Sunday.