"It's not as significant as winning the division, winning in the playoffs and hopefully getting to our ultimate goal and that's the Super Bowl," said defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. "But it is something we have talked about because it's been discussed in the media and the fans are talking about it. It would be neat. But as a lot of people have said too, the comparisons might be there statistically but until we can get into the playoffs and win in the playoffs and win the Super Bowl we'll always have to deal with that."
Five of the Bears' last six opponents have scored 10 points or less. In the first meetings this season with their NFC North foes, both at Soldier Field, the Bears cruised past the Vikings 28-3 and crushed the Packers 19-7 three weeks ago. Minnesota's offense is No. 26 in yards, while Green Bay's is No. 18. They rank 22nd and 21st, respectively, in scoring.
The Bears' defense shut down Atlanta and the NFL's best rushing offense while missing its top three safeties - Mike Brown (calf), Chris Harris (knee) and Todd Johnson (hip) - plus No. 1 strongside linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. It was a major statement, coming short-handed and on the heels of the Steelers game, in which the Bears were gashed for season-worst totals of 363 yards and 190 rushing yards.
"Anytime you don't play well you wonder," Rivera said. "But at the same time, you also have to say, 'We played well eight weeks in a row as a team. Every now and then you're going to have a letdown.' You just can't let it become a big thing. We tried to make sure the guys understood that those things do happen, and we needed them back, and we needed them to play hard and give us a great effort, which is exactly what they did."
The Bears held the Falcons to just 231 total yards, their best effort since they allowed 161 yards to the 49ers five weeks ago. The Falcons had been averaging 341 yards per game, and 178 rushing yards, but they managed just 114 on the ground against the Bears.
All of the injured players should be back today at Green Bay. But even if they're not, the Bears proved last Sunday night they could dominate a good offense with backups playing vital roles.
Backup safeties Mike Green and rookie Brandon McGowan started and played well against Atlanta. Green had an interception and caused another when he separated Michael Jenkins from the ball, which was snagged in mid-air by Nathan Vasher.
"Not only the hit that caused the interception, and his own interception, but he played well at other times, too," coach Lovie Smith said of Green. "He's a part of that defense that held them to three points. That's hard to do. They were the No. 1 rushing offense coming in."
McGowan and Leon Joe, who subbed for Hillenmeyer, earned praise from Rivera.
"Brandon came in and did an excellent job for us," Rivera said. "Anytime you can have a rookie come in and make that contribution, you're very pleased with the effort. Leon Joe was exceptional. He made some mistakes, but he made up for it because he played hard and he played fast."