The Bears remain in the playoff hunt entering a Week 15 trip to Lambeau Field to take on the division-leading Green Bay Packers, thanks to their finest win of the season Thursday night vs. Dallas.
There's a lot of work remaining, and the 7-6 Bears almost certainly need help, still trailing the 7-5 Los Angeles Rams — who are also on the outside looking in — by a game, in addition to the 8-4 Minnesota Vikings, with a tenuous grip on the final wild-card spot.
But they're more than alive, they're dangerous because they're peaking in December.
"This is our team. This is what we really look like. This is what we were trying to get done early in the year," LT Charles Leno said. "But I don’t care that it’s happening right now because why not have it happen right now? Why not get hot right now? Why not get on this streak right now? Because the time is now."
Leno was obviously riding high following a great victory, but obviously the answer to his rhetorical question is because they might be a tad too late.
But maybe not.
The Rams are one-point dogs at home Sunday vs. the division-leading Seattle Seahawks, and they'll visit the still-alive-thanks-to-the-awful-NFC East Cowboys (6-7) in Week 15 and travel to the 10-2 San Francisco 49ers the following week. In other words, help just might be on the way on that front for the Bears.
Minnesota should bounce back on a short week in Detroit after its Monday-night loss in Seattle, but the Vikings are licking their wounds — literally — with their top three playmakers all ailing and their defense currently a shadow of its former self. The Vikings play host to a Green Bay Packers team not yet celebrating a return to NFC North superiority in Week 16, before welcoming Matt Nagy's Bears in the regular-season finale.
The next time Mike Zimmer's bunch beats Nagy's bunch will be the first time, mind you.
The Bears' focus? Solely Green Bay. Then Nagy's old friends, the Kansas City Chiefs, back in primetime in Week 16. Not scoreboard watching, that's for sure.
"The percentages part, no," Matt Nagy said when asked whether he concerns himself with playoff odds. "I know we got to win. If we don't win, none of those percentages matter."
Tight end production! The Bears' offense broke out in such a big way Thursday night that even the maligned tight ends were involved. As in, early-season waiver claim J.P. Holtz and recent practice-squad call-up Jesper Horsted, now the team's top two options with Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen on injured reserve and Ben Braunecker missing his second consecutive game with a concussion.
"Those guys have stepped up. They've helped us out in that role," Nagy said. "You can see when you have that tight end, that presence there, it helps out."
Holtz entered Thursday night with two career catches for 23 yards, both earlier this season in London. He ended the night with a team-high 56 receiving yards and the Bears' two longest receptions this season from the position — 30 and 19 yards.
"Set up perfect," Holtz said of his well-executed 30-yard TE screen setting up the Bears' first touchdown. "We practiced it all week, got the look we wanted. A little surprised how open it was. I turned up field and it’s like, ‘Wow, I might score here.’ It was a great setup for it and we executed it well."
Horsted was also productive one week after his first career touchdown, finishing with 4-36 receiving.
"We need the defenses to respect all our playmakers out on the field. The tight end group has done a great job stepping up," Mitch Trubisky said.
Injuries: It wasn't all good news Thursday, though. Matt Nagy said the pectoral injury that knocked leading tackler Roquan Smith from the game after only one series "doesn't look good." Smith had been playing his best football this season in recent weeks, when Chicago has been without running mate and defensive leader Danny Trevathan (elbow).
Javon Wims also suffered a right knee injury and didn't return, adding to the attrition at receiver, where Taylor Gabriel has missed the past two games with a concussion.
And the Bears began the night without three starters on each side of the ball.
"We need to continue to get healthy these days and come back hungrier and harder when we come back next week," Trubisky said.