Yesterday’s contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars had “trap game” written all over it for the Chicago Bears. Coming off a big Monday night win over the Dallas Cowboys and facing one of the worst teams in the league, with a bye next week, the Bears were ripe for an upset.
So when the team started slow and went into the halftime locker room tied 3-3 with the Jaguars, coach Lovie Smith let his feelings be known.
“It was the same message as always,” said Smith. “You saw the first half. We were just letting everyone know exactly how we play. We didn’t have to say an awful lot. We didn’t play well. We didn’t play Chicago Bear football.”
Smith’s understated recollection of halftime belies the scene in which he whipped his players into shape through a verbal harangue.
"He basically cursed us out without cursing," Charles Tillman said. "He raised his voice and gave us that mean, surly, stern look and we responded to that.”
Smith’s lecture did the job and the Bears came out in the third quarter on a mission. Chicago scored 38 unanswered points in the second half, pummeling Jacksonville 41-3 to pick up the club’s fourth win of the season.
The defense scored two touchdowns on dual 36-yard interception returns by Tillman and Lance Briggs. The duo did the same thing last week, the first time in NFL history a pair of teammates have returned interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks.
Tillman said Smith’s halftime speech woke Chicago’s players out of their stupor.
“He put a little spark in our rear end,” said Tillman. “We started getting to the quarterback in the second half. We were a little flat in the first half and came out with a sense of urgency."
Smith is one of the quietest coaches in the league, so to hear of him exploding at halftime shows he was aware of the stakes in yesterday’s contest. With the win, the Bears are now 4-1 and keep pace atop the NFC North with the Minnesota Vikings and two games ahead of the Green Bay Packers.
“I had concerns in the first half,” Smith said. “We weren’t playing as fast as we normally do. We were a little sluggish. It was a concern, but we’ve seen how our guys play. We’ve been around them for a long time. They normally respond.”
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.