It’s Revenge Week across the SB Nation NFL websites. This week you’ve seen coverage regarding potential revenge games in 2019 and other revenge-related articles. Now, we have to discuss getting over the pain of playoff defeat with good old-fashioned vengeance.
The soundbite itself likely still causes a degree of trauma for everyone associated with the Bears. One doink off one upright, almost in slow motion, and not to be. A bit of faint hope on the way down, another doink, paralyzing disbelief, and a promising Bears’ postseason run—their first in almost a decade—over before it started.
While flawed—who isn’t?—the 2018 Bears were lots of things. They were one of the best defensive teams in the NFL over the last decade, suffocating most any offense. They were a promising upstart, a throwback to their “Monsters of the Midway” days, catching presumed NFC North heavyweights like the Packers and Vikings off guard, and then completely overwhelming all suitors. They were the epitome of confidence and swagger, almost to the point of taking it overboard, but somehow found a happy balance.
This was a team that let an entire city live in the halcyon days of the Bears’ peaks in the 20th century, as many who follow the Bears often do anyway, precisely because they were so good. Above all, in the view of many, they were supposed to end Chicago sports’ ongoing longest championship drought.
What could sink their ambitions, lofty as they were, aside from postseason inexperience together? What could have them implode and seemingly waste a 12-win season in their first relevant January since the turn of the decade?
None of these concerns mattered in Chicago. The Bears were a team of destiny. While experiencing their fair share of close calls, they had lost once in the last two months of the season. The playoffs were a different beast, but they weren’t supposed to be anything the Bears couldn’t handle based on their superfluous resume. The soon-to-be Coach of the Year, Matt Nagy, a man of prophetic and walking cliche “Be You” proverbs, was on their side. Khalil Mack rushed off the edge for them. And by God, did they have Khalil Mack.
As it turns out, the then-defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles had the answer to every question that would ultimately be the Bears’ downfall. They were the team to cancel out every prematurely planned parade down Michigan Ave to a roaring, if freezing crowd in Grant Park.
The Eagles, despite starting former backup quarterback Nick Foles again, and despite their struggles through most of 2018, actualized the Bears’ worst nightmare over the span of three agonizing hours. A proposed January for the ages at Soldier Field instead became memorialized for its inherent flop, for an ill-advised and contentious morning show appearance, and a meme that will assuredly never die on any social media platform.
Quite the leap from confetti, parades, and Khalil Mack. Well, he’s still around.
No, Philadelphia wasn’t remarkably better than Chicago. If you replayed this classic NFC Wild Card Game 10 times, the Bears probably win eight or nine of the matchups. But for one early Sunday evening on the lakefront the Eagles’ dominated the trenches, made enough clutch passing plays, and watched an inconsistent kicker see the worst miss of his career come at the worst possible time. Unfortunately, the NFL playoffs don’t operate on second chances. Such are the cruel and ruthless twists of fate on a whim. The Eagles advanced, the Bears didn’t, and a sad trombone droned on in the background, wiping away much of the relevance of 2018 in an instant. A solid mix of experience and a little Lady Luck helped the Eagles. At the same time, it nipped away at the Bears’ formerly impenetrable goodwill.
The Eagles caught the most random of magic in a bottle, one with plenty of cracks in the glass—evidently having just washed up on the beach with no message inside—and the Bears’ justified aspirations of Lombardi glory were gone.
Just like that. See you next year.
The savvy Bears get their chance for revenge against a likely far better, and healthier, Eagles team when they visit Lincoln Financial Field this November. While they’re still obviously feeling the effects of bitter defeat, a road rematch against the team that acted as the metaphorical final straw is the ideal antidote. A win over the Eagles would give the Bears a chance to bury the demons burrowing inside their collective mental psyche, and charge ahead toward the stretch run of a season carrying burdening expectations. The Bears say they’re ready for what 2019 presents, but it’s a different story once they have to confront their past. Everyone’s ready until they get punched in the mouth, as one football tough guy once said.
Should the 2019 NFL season unfold the way many meaningless summer power rankings and aggregators are predicting, this Bears-Eagles rematch could also be a tone-setter for another playoff date next winter. It’s been a long time since the Bears had a postseason rivalry with another NFC heavyweight. The Eagles are an excellent candidate to be the intimidating team on the other side of the ring, sheepishly grinning with their mouth guard hanging out; not just because they’re the most recent Bears playoff opponent.
It’s in this case where the Bears would be well-served to overcome the Eagles in the regular season and what they represent as most of Chicago’s roster first taste of humbling failure. A defeat could only send the Bears into another tailspin mentally. A defeat could finish an entire short era before it had a chance to launch, as so often happens in the NFL. Windows in this league open and close before a breeze has the chance to waft in.
2019 could be the start of a long-standing beautiful playoff friendship for the Bears and Eagles. With every cliche of revenge like dishes being best served cold and being sweet, as examples, it’s on the Bears to make sure this doesn’t become a one-sided affair.
Robert is the Editor-in-chief of The Blitz Network, the managing editor of Windy City Gridiron, and the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times. Follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.