Only six players on the Bears’ roster know what it’s like to participate in a playoff game, and no one on the current team has ever played in a postseason game for Chicago, since the franchise hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2010 season.
But Sunday night’s game at Soldier Field against the Rams will have a playoff feel and could be a preview of a postseason rematch between the same teams. The visitors are an NFL-best 11-1 and have already punched their ticket to “The Dance” by clinching the NFC West last week. The 8-4 Bears stumbled in New Jersey against the Giants but retained their position atop the NFC North, since every other team in the division was defeated as well.
“But we don’t ever want to be in that position again,” said Bears CB Prince Amukamara, who played on the Giants’ Super Bowl-winning 2011 team as a rookie. “We know that we’re in the driver’s seat, and if we take care of business, everything should work out the way we want it to.”
The Bears can’t wait to make amends for their effort vs. the Giants, but they couldn’t have picked a much tougher opponent than the Rams, whose offense is second only to the Chiefs’.
“They’re a great team; they’re a great playoff team, and we know that this is going to be that type of atmosphere, and we’re excited about it,” Amukamara said. “They’re explosive. They have a great running game, and because the running game is so great, the passing game is great also. (QB) Jared Goff is playing like an MVP candidate. He’s night and day where he was his rookie year, and they also have a young coach (32-year-old Sean McVay) who’s doing a great job and knows how to handle their players.”
Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, was unimpressive as a rookie, losing all seven of his starts and compiling a 63.6 passer rating. But he was brilliant in his first year with McVay, throwing 28 TD passes and just seven interceptions with a 100.5 passer rating and a league-best 12.9 yards per completion. He’s even better this year, averaging 13.7 yards per completion with a 109.9 passer rating, 27 touchdown tosses and seven picks.
But Amukamara is correct when he says that the run game – more specifically, Todd Gurley – is the basis for the Rams’ explosiveness. The 10th overall pick in 2015 suffered through a brutal sophomore slump in Goff’s rookie year, but he’s back with a vengeance.
Gurley had a league-best 2,093 yards from scrimmage last year, including 1,305 rushing yards. He leads the NFL again this year with 1,649 scrimmage yards, and is also No. 1 with 1,175 rushing yards, 15 rushing TDs and 19 total TDs.
The Bears’ offense should have an easier time with a Rams defense that is good but not great, despite a star-studded cast. That includes NFL sack leader Aaron Donald and five-time Pro Bowl pick Ndamukong Suh on the D-line, and CBs Marcus Peters and Aquib Talib in the secondary.
Peters already has 21 interceptions in just his fourth season. Talib has been to the Pro Bowl five times, but he played just 26 snaps last week on a planned pitch count in his first game back since a Week Three ankle injury.
Bears RB Tarik Cohen, who’s coming off a 12-catch, 156-yard game that also included a one-yard TD pass as time expired to send the game into overtime, said that he, personally, doesn’t have to worry about Donald, whose 16.5 sacks are four more than anyone in the league.
“I’m not an O-lineman,” the 5-foot-6, 181-pound Cohen pointed out. “So I really don’t get to go against him every play. I’ll probably see him some of (the time) but I probably won’t see him a lot.”
For Cohen's sake and for the Bears’, the less they see of Donald the better.