The Bears are one of six NFL teams to have the latest bye week this year, playing 13 straight games before another four-game stretch to close out the 2022 season.
Like most players, cornerback Jaylon Johnson is heading home for the bye week. For Johnson, that's Fresno, Calif., and he's excited to have "some daddy-daughter time," host a Christmas event for his non-profit and mainly just relax.
"I won't take the whole week, off but definitely not thinking about the game, not thinking about the season," Johnson said. "Just kind of decompressing and separating from that and spending time with my daughter, spending time with my family. I'm going to stay in that moment. And then when I'm back, I'm back to business."
Taking the week away from football will allow the Bears to reset physically and mentally after falling to the rival Packers 28-19 Sunday, marking a sixth straight loss.
"I mean, the way I look at it is I can't lose on the bye week," Johnson said. "Just go 1-0 this week. So I mean I'm happy about that. I'm happy about winning something, being able to go back home, being off, relaxing, just gaining an edge mentally. For me, my family's not out here. So being able to go back and see my daughter, that's a win for me."
After a strong start to the season, the Bears defense has struggled as a unit throughout the losing stretch, allowing at least 27 points per game since the win in New England.
While the defense ultimately gave up 18 fourth-quarter points against the Packers, improvement was evident in the first three quarters, allowing just 10 points in the second period. A large part of that early success came from the secondary' strong coverage, despite the unit missing safeties Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker and cornerbacks Kyler Gordon and Kindle Vildor – all of whom are typical starters.
On Sunday, alongside Johnson were rookies Jaylon Jones, Josh Blackwell and Elijah Hicks along with veteran special-teamer DeAndre Houston-Carson. Johnson said the group's belief in themselves and each other combined with detailed preparation led to Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers recording his second-lowest completion percentage (58.1) and passing yardage (182) of the season.
"Everybody really went into that game confident," Johnson said. "For me, it was really just kind of getting those guys to believe, getting those guys to seize the moment, to be in that moment and to make plays in it. I feel like if you go into the game, a rivalry game, you can give those guys too much respect. Those guys bleed the same way we bleed. Those guys have weaknesses the same way we have weaknesses. So it's just going out there, attacking and making the most of your opportunity. I feel like they did that from the beginning of the week until Sunday."
After the game at Soldier Field, Rodgers had compliments of his own for the Bears' secondary.
"Jaylon is a premier player," Rodgers said. "But the other young guys played pretty well. Gotta give them credit. There was multiple times where it felt like getting out of the pocket, somebody is going to come open. They locked down our guys. They definitely deserve credit for that."
Being named a "premier player" by the future Hall of Fame quarterback isn't something Johnson takes lightly. While he and Rodgers have previously voiced their mutual respect, Johnson views the most recent comment as "confirmation about what I believe in myself."
Johnson believes a lot of that respect came during the 2021 season when Johnson limited the production of former Packers All-Pro receiver and current Raider Davante Adams. In the Week 14 matchup last season, Adams was targeted just five times with Johnson in coverage, catching just two passes for 19 yards and a score. When Adams faced other defenders in that game, he caught all eight targets for 102 yards.
While Johnson has put together a strong third-year campaign, he knows it hasn't been filled with highlight plays like interceptions. He knows in order to get league-wide recognitions such as being named to the Pro Bowl, the big, flashy moments need to be there; however, he measures his own success through non-statistical achievements like the quote from Rodgers.
"I take pride in stuff like that," Johnson said. "I take pride. I play the game with a lot of pride and respect. Getting interceptions isn't the only way to impact the game, isn't the only way to get respect, isn't the only way to, as he said, be a premier player. Your peers validate you. Not the media. Not what the outside people looking in.
"I feel like at the end of the day, they respect me coming into that game and they respect me leaving that game as well based on what I put on film, based on my abilities. But I feel like at the end of the day, to me it's not about popularity; it's about what my peers believe of me, all my team, my quarterbacks and people on the offensive side that I play against."