MINNEAPOLIS — The Chicago Bears entered Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Vikings as the NFC North champions and locked into at least the No. 3 seed in the conference.
There had been plenty of discussion during the week about what first-year coach Matt Nagy would do when it came to playing his starters, especially if the Los Angeles Rams took a commanding lead against San Francisco. A Rams victory meant they would lock up the No. 2 seed and leave Chicago one spot back.
Nagy didn’t surprise anyone by having quarterback Mitch Trubisky and his key players on the field for the first half against the Vikings at U.S Bank Stadium. That group helped to give Chicago a 13-3 lead at halftime. The Bears-Vikings had kicked off at the same time as the Rams-49ers, and Nagy didn’t want anyone telling him the score of Los Angeles-San Francisco matchup during the first half of his game.
It was 31-10 in favor of the host Rams at halftime.
“That’s the first I found out,” Nagy said. “I didn’t want anybody talking to me about the score in the first half. (Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews) broke the news to me that it was (31-10) at halftime, which is good to know.”
The question was, coming out of the locker room, would the Bears replace Trubisky with backup Chase Daniel and yank more of their starters? Nagy quickly answered that question as the Bears got the ball to open the third quarter and Trubisky remained under center. He never left as the Bears scored 11 points in the fourth quarter in a 24-10 victory over the Vikings.
The win knocked Minnesota out of the sixth and final playoff seed in the NFC and put Philadelphia into the postseason as the Eagles routed Washington, 24-0. That was interesting because the Eagles are coached by Doug Pederson, who was Kansas City’s offensive coordinator when Nagy was the Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach. Pederson hinted last week that he might have called Nagy to talk about the situation.
Whether that was true, Nagy certainly did Pederson a favor by having the Bears play to win the game instead of resting players in the second half.
“I was going off my gut reaction and gut feeling with our guys, because it is not easy,” Nagy said of his decision-making process. “You have a lead, you know you are in next week and it wouldn’t feel good to lose a guy in that situation (an injury that comes in the regular-season finale). Those are hard, that is a valuable experience for me down the road.”
The Bears, who finished last in the NFC North in 2017 with a 5-11 record under John Fox, will play host to the Eagles at 3:40 p.m. next Sunday in the opening round of the playoffs. Nagy said he wasn’t giving thought to what team he would rather face in the first round. If the Vikings had won Sunday, they would have gone to Chicago to play the Bears for the third time this season.
“You go through and you know, but no matter who you play, whether it is offense, defense, special teams, everybody is going to have their own suggestions,” said Nagy, whose team swept the season series from the Vikings. “For me, I just love winning. I think it is fun to win and so when you win, whoever it is, who cares? Let’s just play ball. That’s the fun part, that’s what we’re going to do. Tons of respect for every team in this league, but we just want to win.”