By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – Facing the perennial NFC North favorite Packers in Lambeau Field, playing on the national primetime stage, Bears safety Chris Prosinski delivered in the clutch. Yes, Chris Prosinski.READ MORE: Tiffany Henyard To Be Sworn In As Dolton's First Woman Mayor
Prosinski punched the ball away from Packers running back Eddie Lacy, a pivotal play that led to the Bears scoring on their ensuing possession, a Zach Miller touchdown. That marked Miller’s fourth score in as many weeks and fourth touchdown since 2011. Two weeks before, Bears receiver Marc Mariani was joking that he had Miller on his fantasy team — except he really did.
In a way, it’s fitting that one of Miller’s biggest believers was Mariani, who, for at least for at least one night at Lambeau Field, also became a heroic figure. A former Montana standout, Mariani tied a career-high with three catches, each of which came on third down and resulted in a first down, including a key snag late in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a guy in the huddle that you know he’s going to give you everything he’s got,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said of Mariani.
Cornerback Tracy Porter became a shutdown defender months after being cut by Washington, supplying the critical interception and pass breakup in the final minutes to win the game in Green Bay. The MVP of Super Bowl XLIV, Porter was nearly cut in the preseason as hamstring injuries hampered him. Charles Leno is a former sixth-round pick who has filled in so admirably at left tackle that he beat out highly-paid veteran Jermon Bushrod for the job. Bryce Callahan is an undrafted rookie who appears to be the real deal at nickelback, bringing consistency to the defense.
Who are these guys? It’s a question fans in Chicago are gleefully asking themselves. The Bears’ roster is littered with names of relative unknowns who have helped the team win games.
“We honestly don’t look at that,” Prosinski said. “We play for each other, we play for the coaches, we play for the city and the fans.”READ MORE: Mayor Lightfoot Delays General Iron Permit To Move To South Side Over EPA Concerns
Such a statement represents the Bears’ healthy culture instilled by coach John Fox, who has made “next man up” seem like less of a cliché and more of a team mantra. After all, the Bears were supposed to lose — a lot — this season because of their lack of overall talent. Yet, they’ve found the pieces to stay competitive.
While the collective passion of a Mariani, Porter and more has built the Bears into a surprising competitor, credit Fox and his coordinators, Adam Gase and Vic Fangio, for doing a terrific job putting players in position to be successful — a vast difference from the tactical decisions of Marc Trestman and Mel Tucker a year ago.
Prosinski called Fangio a “genius” as defensive coordinator. Ka’Deem Carey, a reserve running back who once seemed close to the chopping block, had similar sentiments about Gase after winning in St. Louis. The coaches are deserving of high praise, but they choose to credit the players.
“A lot of people make a lot about the talent level and all that stuff,” Fox said recently. “But through experience, how you play the game, the mindset you play the game, can overcome some of those things. I just like the state of mind of our team right now.”
One year ago, the Bears’ locker room was doomed by dysfunction, and a season that actually started with Super Bowl hopes was done in by reckless influences. That’s all in the past, and a team that wasn’t supposed to be even 5-6 (and certainly wasn’t expected to win in Green Bay) continues its recent flourish.
All around the roster, the Bears have surprising success stories blossoming from names not expected to succeed or even be on the squad. The story of this unexpectedly uplifting Bears season has been the names that have made it interesting. Put it all into one team and there’s hope for the playoffs, believe it or not.
“I’m just proud to be a part of this group,” Mariani said. “We just got a bunch of guys who are unselfish and ready to do whatever it takes to win games.”MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Rain Saturday Ahead Of Chilly Mother's Day