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Pace talks Bears before playoff opener


General manager Ryan Pace spoke with Jeff Joniak Sunday on the Bears pregame radio show on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM and 105.9 FM. The following is a transcript of Pace's comments:

On making the playoffs:

"You never lose perspective on, really, the honor it is to be in this position. We're fortunate; two out of three years we've gotten in. But now it's what we do with this opportunity. I think we look at it like a new season; records don't matter. We've just got to get after it today."

On what reaching the postseason says about 2020 Bears:

"To start 5-1, lose six, respond by winning three of four, we've been through a lot. I think the response says something about our guys. I think it says something about our culture and just the people we have in our building."

On whether being an underdog Sunday can create motivation:

"I think that's real. You go into this game, just play loose, play fast, play confident. That's really our mindset. It's no pressure. Just leave it all out there today."

On how winning different ways this season could help in a playoff game:

"It really does. You go through those experiences and it helps prepare you for the ebbs and flows of a game. You have to handle changes in momentum and circumstances throughout the game. You've seen how fast things can shift, and I think those experiences do help us."

On the elbow injury linebacker Roquan Smith suffered in the regular-season finale against the Packers:

"I can tell you everyone in our building feels like he's playing like the best inside linebacker in the NFL, and at an All-Pro level. This is something he'll bounce back from, and we just couldn't be more proud of the regular season that he had."

On expectations for the defense against the Saints:

"We know we have to step up against this offense. That's for sure. They're a top five NFL offense for a reason. They have a staff that's been together for 15 years: Same head coach, same coordinator, same quarterback together for 15 years, and you feel that. But our expectations as we go into this is to be opportunistic and play fast and play physical on defense."

On the importance of generating takeaways:

"That's real, 100 percent. We've had opportunities, even some of these recent games. We dropped interceptions last week that hurt us. We had opportunities the last time we played New Orleans. We've got to capitalize today. We've got to take advantage of those opportunities, especially against an offense like this."

On the need to finish red-zone drives with touchdowns:

"Last week we moved the ball. We had 350-plus yards of offense. We had 74 offensive plays. But I think we all know we can be better in the red zone, and against teams like Green Bay last week and New Orleans this week, field goals usually aren't going to be good enough to win those games, and that could be the difference."

On the performances of young players David Montgomery, Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet, and the value to them of playing in a playoff game:

"Those players you mentioned, I [also] think of Roquan, Bilal [Nichols], Jaylon Johnson, Sam Mustipher, all those guys are 24 years of age and younger, and they've all had a significant impact on us getting to the playoffs. I think this experience for their careers, for our team, it's extremely valuable."

On kicker Cairo Santos' record-breaking 2020 season:

"It's an example where timing is everything: where he's at in his career, in his life. He's healthy. The last time he was here with us, he wasn't fully healthy. But now he is, and he's just a very talented player. He's a special person, and he's the type of player you really root for, and we're so proud of the season that he's had."

On Saints quarterback Drew Brees still performing at a high level into his 40s:

"Just knowing him, to be able to do what he's doing, it speaks to his work ethic: the way he takes care of his body, his workout routines in-season and in the offseason, his diet, his recovery, his weekly preparation. He'll go down as one of the best ever, and it's because of all those things and more that he does."

On Saints receiver Michael Thomas' expected return Sunday after missing the last three games with an ankle injury:

"He's clearly one of the top receivers in the league, a guy the quarterback trusts immensely. You can see it. He was the offensive player of the year in the NFL last year for a reason, and I think it just gives them more weapons to spread the field, especially if you factor in [Alvin] Kamara and Emmanuel Sanders. They've got a lot of weapons on offense."