Every NFL game he plays is important to Jimmy Graham. But the veteran tight end acknowledged that there's a heightened sense of urgency following a loss.
"The urgency is always on when you lose a game," Graham said. "It doesn't matter if you got that first loss in Week 12. I've been a part of some teams that have won a lot of games and even that one loss, it's always a sense of urgency. It is a marathon, but this is the one league where you have to perform quickly."
The Bears will have the opportunity to rebound from their Week 1 defeat to the Rams Sunday when they open their home schedule by hosting the Bengals.
After playing in an empty Soldier Field last season due to COVID-19 restrictions, Graham is eager to play his first Bears home game in a full stadium.
"Excited to come home," Graham said, "excited to be back in Chicago with fans, and myself here with fans for the first time to feel this city and get the crowd into it and get our defense rushing off the edge.
"That's what we're focused on, not pressure, but we understand what's at hand here and how important this week is to get some momentum and get in the win column."
Injury update: Nose tackle Eddie Goldman (knee) did not practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday. For the second straight day, rookie left tackle Larry Borom (ankle) did not practice, while veteran left tackle Jason Peters (quad) and outside linebacker Robert Quinn (back) were limited.
Nothing changed: Peters and Borom were both injured in last Sunday night's 34-14 season-opening loss to the Rams. But that doesn't mean the offense was limited when third-string left tackle Elijah Wilkinson entered the game.
"I thought Elijah did an excellent job," said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. "I can speak I think for the staff to say that Elijah being in the game had zero effect, as far as I can speak, of what we did. I thought he handled himself great. I know he's played in the past. He was here all offseason. He's played both left and right [tackle] for us. We have great confidence in Elijah."
Wilkinson signed with the Bears in March. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Broncos in 2017 and appeared in 45 games with 26 starts for Denver the past four seasons.
"He just stepped in and he did what he's been doing all camp, just being reliable," said right tackle Germain Ifedi. "He came here and he had some things that he wanted to prove, and when his opportunity was called he was able to step in and really be steady for us."
Energy lacking: Veteran linebacker Alec Ogletree was candid about the defense's disappointing performance against the Rams.
"We just didn't play with enough energy," Ogletree said this week. "We could've played with a lot more energy than we did this past Sunday night. When you're feeling good, you can see it on film and everybody can feel it. It's kind of one of those things. I just think this week for us is about bringing the energy and executing on our plays and just being us: having fun and playing well."
The Bears allowed the Rams to score on six of seven possessions in the game, not counting kneel-down drives to end both halves. Blown coverages in the secondary enabled Matthew Stafford to throw touchdown passes of 67 and 56 yards.
Asked about Ogletree's assertion that the defense lacked energy, coach Matt Nagy said: "A lot of times in all three phases, when you're making big plays, that's where you get that energy. It's created through the play on the field. They had some explosive plays and that can take away from your energy, but you've got to find it then. You've got to get it back by making big plays. And then we can help it, too, on offense by making big plays to where you kind of feel the juice on the sideline and there is that energy.
"I felt like in that game, we were just kind of playing catch-up the whole game. And then we never caught up, and that's probably where you felt a little bit of that. It wasn't—at least what I felt on the sideline—because guys didn't care or anything like that. It was more so just the flow of the game."