Despite a week of anticipation, the outcome of the Bears' 35-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers will have no impact on playoff seedings.
As time ran out at Soldier Field, the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals 18-7 to eliminate the Bears' only competition for the seventh seed in the NFC.
Coach Matt Nagy didn't learn the score of the game until he was walking off the field.
Nagy had to balance the excitement of his second playoff bid in three years with the feeling in the locker room. He decided to navigate the locker room by acknowledging the pain of the loss, even if it was ultimately meaningless to playoff standings.
"The message was a lot of honesty," said Nagy. "'Hey, when we wake up tomorrow, let's go and let's regroup, and let's get after it.' I don't know when we play, but I do know we play the Saints."
After Nagy spoke to the media, the NFL announced that the Bears would play the New Orleans Saints next Sunday at 3:40 p.m. CT.
Nagy saw the game against the Packers as an opportunity to change the narrative. For three-and-a-half quarters, such a change looked to be within reach. The fact that the Rams beat the Cardinals may have saved the Bears' playoff dreams, but it doesn't take away the sting of the loss.
"I have to reset myself," said Nagy. "I'm still emotionally feeling this game. I'm not at the playoff part yet. Once I get over that here in the next hour or two, it's going to go right on to the Saints, and now as you all know, anything can happen."
Several players expressed frustration at the game's outcome while reiterating their determination to put up a strong performance in the playoffs.
"I don't care how we got there," said safety Eddie Jackson. "We're in. That's the marvel of it. All these records are [now] at 0-0. No one's guaranteed to play right now, so we just gotta go out there and compete. No matter how we got there, we got in. That's the most important part."
Jackson's view is one that Nagy hopes the entire team adopts.
"It's my job," said Nagy, "it starts with me to make sure we do everything we can as coaches to get our players ready, to realize that it's a clean slate tomorrow. You guys know it. Anything can happen once you get into the playoffs. Anything. Especially this year, too."
The loss on Sunday can't dampen the unlikely turnaround that allowed the Bears to earn a playoff seed. Six weeks ago, the team had to pull out of a downward spiral that saw the offense sink to the bottom of league rankings.
"Let me just let me say this," said Nagy. "For our team and our players to pull out of a six-game losing streak, I'm proud of them for that. And now we go. These guys believe that anything can happen."
The team battled through two quarterback changes and several critical injuries. For several weeks, it seemed as if the team might lose every game remaining on its schedule. Instead, they have the opportunity to rewrite the story of the 2020 Chicago Bears.
"The only way to do it is by believing in each other," said Nagy. "I'm sure even right now there's a lot of people that jumped off, and they don't want to be a part of it. But our guys understood, that hey, here's where we're at and we've got one thing, we can either just fold up shop and say that's enough, or we can step up. We've got four games left."
Nagy credited his team with a great week in practice. For much of the game, the Bears executed their game-plan of long sustained drives that kept the win within the margin of a few plays.
The Bears will now face a team they took to overtime in October. With a new-look offense and a clean slate, anything could happen.
"This is what you work for," said Trubisky. "The season didn't go the way we envisioned it, but you have a new opportunity, so really none of that matters. So you've just got to take advantage of that opportunity, and I'm very grateful for that. So this has got to be our best week. It's got to be my best week.