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Resilient Bears aim to keep building momentum


What a difference two weeks can make in the NFL.

The Bears were licking their wounds Sept. 26 after a disappointing loss in Cleveland dropped them to 1-2. But after inspiring back-to-back wins over the Lions and Raiders, their season is seemingly back on track.

"It's a momentum league," said safety Tashaun Gipson Sr.. "Once you get that momentum, the ball is rolling. You feel like you can beat anybody, you can play with anybody, and that's the phase that we're in right now."

Sunday's 20-9 victory in Las Vegas was one of the Bears' most impressive team wins under coach Matt Nagy, with all three phases contributing. Khalil Mack spearheaded a dominant defensive effort against his former team, Khalil Herbert and Damien Williams combined to rush for 139 yards and Cairo Santos made a pair of clutch 46-yard field goals in the fourth quarter. 

"We're playing complementary football right now," Gipson said. "Offense is doing what they need to do. Defense is playing phenomenal right now. Special teams is coming up big for us right now." 

Gipson heard some criticize the Bears for having the NFL's oldest roster entering the season, but the 11-year veteran thinks that having experienced players has proven to be a positive. 

"There's a lot of guys that have played a lot of football," Gipson said. "Nobody's hitting the panic button. You have a mature group of guys who can still play football at a high level. So, collectively, once you combine those two things, it's just one of those things where you've got a bunch of guys who understand the assignment at hand. 

"Yeah, we put out some bad football. But we're mature enough to understand this is a long season. It's not how you start; it's always how you finish, and that's our mindset right now. We're starting to catch our stride. There are little things we can clean up right now obviously, but we're catching our stride and it's exciting for us."

After an historically poor performance on offense against the Browns, players on that side of the ball were determined to correct their mistakes. In the two games that have followed, the Bears have scored five touchdowns and rushed for 331 yards and four touchdowns on 76 carries. 

"I think it just comes back to the team taking what we did collectively as a team against the Browns and being like, 'We don't want this to be who we are,'" said left guard Cody Whitehair. "You can tell the mentality of the whole team—not just offensively but the whole team—changed after we got back into practice after the Browns game. 

"And that's what I've seen moving forward; a shift in mentality, the team taking ownership of what we put on the field. We knew it wasn't good enough, and just coming to work with that mentality every week, you can tell on the practice field guys are more focused and ready to go." 

The Bears have seemingly righted the ship, but that doesn't mean there's nothing but smooth sailing ahead. For starters, they're set to face two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history the next two weeks, the Packers' Aaron Rodgers followed by the Buccaneers' Tom Brady. 

Up first is Rodgers, a three-time NFL MVP and notorious Bears killer who has helped the Packers dominate the rivalry.

"He's one of the few quarterbacks that truly has no flaws to his game," Gipson said. "He can make every throw. He's mobile enough to get out of the pocket. He's smart; he doesn't turn the ball over."

Since throwing two interceptions in a season-opening loss to the Saints, Rodgers has passed for 10 touchdowns with just one interception in four games, all Packers wins. Last year he threw for 48 TDs with only five picks.

Gipson knows that the Bears must take advantage any time Rodgers gives them even a small chance to produce a takeaway.

"When you get those opportunities, because they're few and far between, you've got to capitalize on [them]," Gipson said. "In my opinion, he is a top-five quarterback of all time. He's a phenomenal player. He's the engine that keeps that car going. Obviously, we've got our work cut out against Aaron Rodgers."

With Khalil Mack's strong effort during Sunday's win over the Raiders in Las Vegas, senior writer Larry Mayer ranks the top 10 performances he's witnessed by Bears players against their former team.