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 last Sunday's win over the Vikings:
"Each one of these games is critical right now and that was a big one; backs against the wall really for both teams, on the road, and just proud of the way that our offense continues to progress and build. Our defense gave up some yards, [but] we stepped up at critical moments, we put pressure on the quarterback throughout the game, and also we've just got a lot of key players stepping up right now in the home stretch of the season, which is important."
On the Bears focusing on one game at a time:
"It's just the way our league works. It's how you've got to operate. Honestly, a lot of this is just focusing on us—our team, our locker room—what can we do to improve and get better every week. That's been the focus, and I think Matt [Nagy] has done a great job messaging that to the team, and then it's a credit to our players for responding to that message."
On the improvement of the Bears offense:
"Really since we came off the bye our offense has been playing well, and I think it's a credit to our coaches and our players, and you see their excitement regarding the direction and the progress of the offense. Right now there's a lot of confidence on that side of the ball, and I think that comes with the success we've had in recent weeks."
On what impresses him about quarterback Mitchell Trubisky:
"I think what impresses us is that you see a young player that's grown and progressed from all the things that he's experienced the last four years, and just the ability to battle through that adversity and come out better and stronger. I really think everything happens for a reason, and he wouldn't be where he's at right now if it wasn't for those experiences."
On whether this is what he envisioned with the Bears running game:
"We obviously made some adjustments to the O-line and that's had a big impact. And I think our offensive coaches have done a great job. [Offensive line coach] Juan Castillo is right in the middle of that. But the success of our run game starts with this unselfish team-first attitude; guys switching positions like Cody [Whitehair] and [Germain] Ifedi, and young guys stepping up like [Alex[ Bars and [Sam] Mustipher, [Charles] Leno playing consistent., But it keeps going. I see our tight ends right now with Jimmy [Graham] and Cole [Kmet] and what they're doing in the run game. And then it goes to our receivers and the pride that our receivers are blocking with. You combine all of that, with David Montgomery and CP (Cordarrelle Patterson) playing at a high level and I think you're seeing the results."
On how the defense has been playing and the performance of young defensive backs Duke Shelley and Kindle Vildor:
"With the two young corners stepping up last week against a good receiving corps … I think the moment wasn't too big for them. I thought both those guys played physical and aggressive. Obviously, with young players there's growth and learning that's going to come from that experience. But going back to our defense as a whole, they hold themselves to a high standard and their level of play is going to be critical as we enter this home stretch. Again, we liked the pressure we put on the quarterback last week, and making stops at critical moments was big for us."
On injured defensive backs Jaylon Johnson and Buster Skrine:
"I think both of those guys, it's trending in a good direction and we're just being smart with it. They're working hard, and our trainers and docs are doing a good job. We've just got to stay on the track."
On the emergence of defensive lineman Bilal Nichols:
"I really think he's playing at an elite level right now versus the run and the pass. He's one of our core young players and what I love is he's 100 percent one of our best practice players. He's one of our hardest workers, and you're seeing all that work that goes on behind the scenes pay off on gameday. That's what that is."
On Roquan Smith deserving to be chosen for the Pro Bowl along with the two players that were selected ahead of him, the 49ers' Fred Warner and the Seahawks' Bobby Wagner:
"I totally agree. All those guys are great players, but we love Roquan. He leads the league in solo tackles, he leads all linebackers in tackles-for-loss. The production speaks for itself. He's consistently making impact plays. He plays with an outstanding motor and energy. He's one of the leaders of our team and a tone-setter for our defense, so we're lucky to have Roquan. But all those guys are great players."
On Khalil Mack and Cordarrelle Patterson being voted to another Pro Bowl:
"They're both high level players; they impact every game. Beyond that, they're great teammates too. And we're just proud with them getting recognized, it is very well-deserved."
On the Jaguars playing hard and not taking them lightly:
"One hundred percent they do [play hard]. They're a physical team. They've been in a ton of close games this season despite their record. From the moment our last game ended, our focus has been on coming down here and playing well. Every one of these games is critical for our team, and we know we have to continue to improve to stay on the course we want to be on, and that's the plan today."