LAKE FOREST – There have been changes in the signal caller, the play caller, and constant shuffling of the offensive line.
All have made the Bears’ offense in 2020 a roller coaster adventure that has cause plenty of heartache for the team and the fans. The unit finally put together four-straight 30 point games toward the end of the season, but getting just 16 against the Packers quelled some of those positive vibes.
Yet all through the season, once again, there was one player who was consistent the whole way: Receiver Allen Robinson. He may not have gotten his contract extension but he may have earned his payday coming up at the end of the year thanks to another strong season.
In his seventh year in the league, he set a personal best with 102 catches, gained 1,250 yards with six touchdowns. During the three-game winning streak that would propel the Bears to the postseason, he made 23 catches for 309 yards and a score.
The reward for Robinson is another shot at the postseason, which is technically the third of his career. In 2017 he was a member of the Jaguars’ team that advanced to the AFC Championship, but he was sidelined with a torn ACL for that game suffered in the first quarter of Week 1.
After joining the Bears, Robinson enjoyed the best game of his first season in the Wild Card game against the Eagles, making ten catches for 143 yards and a touchdown. The receiver built off that performance to lead the Bears in receiving the last two seasons, and in 2020, earning a coveted spot in the playoffs.
“That’s exciting. That’s what you play for,” said Robinson of the playoffs. “Another shot in the playoffs means you’ve got another shot to attain your goal which is at the beginning of the year, everybody set out, all 32 teams set out to win the Super Bowl.
“There’s different ways you can go about it. You can win your division to get in the playoffs. You can try to get in it via Wild Card. For ourselves, we gave ourselves a chance. We’re in via Wild Card. That’s what you play for.”
DOWN, BUT NOT OUT
For a unit that helped to carry the team early in the season when their offense was struggling, it’s been a frustrating few weeks.
Since the Green Bay game on November 29th, the Bears’ defense has allowed at least 30 points in three of their six games, and surrendered 27 to the Vikings in Week 15. It’s dropped the unit to 14th in points and 11th in yardage in the NFL.
Saturday brought more bad news for the unit that’s played without secondary mainstays Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine the last few weeks. Roquan Smith’s elbow injury will keep him out of Sunday’s NFC Wild Card game with the Saints.
The speedy linebacker was thought to be a critical piece of the Bears’ defense against a strong New Orleans’ offense that includes dual threat star Alvin Kamara.
Yet for Khalil Mack, who finished the season with five sacks and was named a second-team All-Pro, excuses won’t cut it for the group. Knowing the Saints’ offense (5th in the league in points with 30 per game), the outside linebacker understands what kind of effort the team will need to advance to the divisional round.
“It’s the understanding that it has to be some of the best defense that we’ve ever played in Chicago Bears history,” said Mack. “Understanding what’s at stake, you’ve got to play at a high level. You can’t make any excuses, you can’t really talk about ifs, ands, or buts. It’s an opportunity, and you’ve got to make the most of it.”
Mentioning the kicker position around the Bears during the NFC Wild Card weekend is bound to drum up some bad memories.
Cody Parkey’s “double-doink” in the 2018 playoffs is still not far from fan’s mind, especially since the team has played .500 football since that moment.
But it’s hard not to talk about how Cairo Santos has managed to solidify a position that was quite volatile during the first two seasons under Nagy. He set the team’s franchise record with 27-consecutive kicks made, breaking Robbie Gould’s record set during the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
He hasn’t missed a field goal since the opening drive of the Bears’ Week 3 win over the Falcons, hitting every kick in any weather or any stadium. Now he gets to kick indoors in the Wild Card game against the Falcons at the Superdome, which is a homecoming for Santos.
He played in the stadium while at Tulane from 2010-2013 where he consensus All-American and the Lou Groza Award winning in 2012. Santos will be kicking inside the venue for the first time since he left college.
“It’s special for me because I haven’t been back in the Superdome since college, so it’s my first time playing there in the NFL,” said Santos.
STAT OF THE WEEK: 2-0
The Bears’ record against the Saints in the postseason. Many remember the team’s meeting in the NFC Championship in January, 2007 at Soldier Field, which was won by the Bears 39-14.
Their first meeting was in January of 1991, when the NFC Central champion Bears knocked off New Orleans 16-6 at Soldier Field.