Hoge’s Notes: Bears Still Control Playoff Fate
By Adam Hoge-
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For the second year in a row, the Bears will enter Week 17 with a chance to clinch a playoff berth.
The difference this year is that the Bears have all the control.
Last season, the Bears entered Week 17 needing a win over the Lions and a Packers win over the Vikings. They took care of their own business in Detroit, but the Vikings upset the Packers to steal the Bears’ playoff berth.
“At least this time it’s different where we win and we’re in,” Bears running back Matt Forte said. “Last year we had to win and someone else had to lose. It’s all or nothing (this time).”
It’s all or nothing in next week’s game between the Bears (8-7) and the Packers (7-7-1) at Soldier Field, which was flexed to a 3:25 p.m. start on FOX by the NFL. The winner will be crowned the NFC North champion and the loser will go home. And, since no one seems to want to win the division, it’s important to note that a tie would give the Bears the division title.
Unfortunately for the Bears, the reason why next week’s game matters is because they failed miserably at clinching the division title Sunday night in Philadelphia. Finding out about 45 minutes before kickoff that they could win the NFC North due to losses by Detroit and Green Bay earlier in the afternoon, the Bears came out flat and never recovered, falling 54-11 to the Eagles.
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That score might look more like one of Chip Kelly’s old wins at Oregon, but the good news for the Bears is, as ugly as a loss as it was, it did not cost the Bears anything more than their first of two opportunities to clinch the NFC North.
Also on the line next week will be seeding. A win Sunday night in Philadelphia would have also clinched the 3-seed for the Bears, but they would fall to the 4-seed now even with a win next week if the Eagles beat the Cowboys in Dallas. That game will also serve as a division title game and if the Cowboys win the NFC East, the Bears would be the 3-seed because they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Of course, none of that matters if they don’t beat the Packers.
Briggs Limited In Return
Bears linebacker Lance Briggs was limited in his first game back since fracturing his shoulder Oct. 20 against the Redskins.
The plan was for Briggs to be somewhat limited, but because of the blowout, head coach Marc Trestman decided to yank him out of the game for the final quarter.
“I thought he did well,” the head coach said. “He came out a couple times and got some wind, went back out. I thought he played hard.”
With only one tackle in the game, Briggs didn’t really seem to make much of a difference, as the Bears allowed 289 rushing yards to the Eagles, the ninth most in franchise history and the most since allowing 311 rushing yards to the Vikings in 2007.
“It was good having him back,” defensive end Julius Peppers said. “It was good having him on the field. The final score might not show it, but it was a big boost having him out there.”
Briggs did not speak with reporters after the game.
The Bears came into Sunday night’s game with a realistic chance to break franchise records for total net yards in a season, gross passing yards in a season, net passing yards in a season and passing touchdowns in a season..
Only one of those records was broken, as Jay Cutler’s third quarter touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall marked the Bears’ 30th passing touchdown of the season, breaking the previous record of 29 set in both 1947 and 1995.
Cutler did however break a big personal franchise record as his 222 passing yards put him atop the franchise’s all-time passing yards list with 14,687. He broke Sid Luckman’s previous record by one yard.
Conte Plays Despite Concussion Test
Bears safety Chris Conte was evaluated for a concussion by team doctors after a first half collision, but he passed those tests and played the rest of the game.
“The questions (in the test) are not easy and there are many memory things you have to complete,” Conte said. Even without a concussion you really have to focus on what is asked of you. They gave me the test and I pass it and I am thankful for that. If I did not feel good I would not have gone back into the game.”
By his own admission though, he hit his head pretty hard.
“I went up to knock a ball down and I bent back and came down hard and banged my head hard on the ground,” he said. “They wanted to check me out because I hit it pretty good, but I am good.”
– The Bears did not appear to suffer any other key injuries of note.
– Marc Trestman is giving his team Monday off to enjoy the Christmas holiday, despite the loss. Tuesday (Christmas Eve) is the NFL mandated off day. The Bears will return to Halas Hall on Christmas Day, but it will be a shorter work day than normal. They’ll crunch a lot of the Packers game plan into Thursday and Friday, which is a similar approach they took against the Browns last week after playing on Monday Night Football the week before.
– Trestman said his players were aware before the game that the Lions and Packers had lost, but he did not directly address it with his team before they took the field.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.