Bears get chance for payback against Packers

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The symbolism of the Chicago Bears clinching the NFC North on Sunday at the expense of the Green Bay Packers cannot be overstated.

There’s invariably some degree of meaning whenever the Bears face the Packers, given that the teams have the NFL’s oldest rivalry, dating to 1921.

But Sunday’s game takes on special importance -- for a variety of reasons.

The Bears haven’t reached the postseason since losing the 2010 NFC Championship Game at home to the Packers, 21-14. That defeat was painful on many levels, including the fact Green Bay had to beat Chicago in Week 17 that year just to qualify for the playoffs. The Packers not only knocked off the Bears in the postseason, but they ended up winning the Super Bowl, which kicked off a stretch of dominance inside the division during which Green Bay won five North titles in seven years.

Three seasons later, the Bears had a chance to make the playoffs under -- believe it or not -- former head coach Marc Trestman, but fell 33-28 to the Packers in Week 17.

That loss ushered in an era or darkness. The Bears became irrelevant in Trestman’s final season (2014), and then for three straight years under John Fox, who was fired after going 14-34.

The Bears’ fortunes changed dramatically in the offseason, beginning with the hiring of Matt Nagy, whose nine victories are the most of any Bears head coach in his first season since the AFL-NFL merger of 1970.

“I think overall the guys understand the situation that we’ve put ourselves in and that’s what we’ve worked for,” Nagy said on Wednesday. “We’ve worked hard to get to this point. Great win for us against L.A., and now, we have to put that behind us and the only thing we can do is control how we play at home here against Green Bay, and the guys know that. The energy is good, and to be able to have the other stuff that goes with it is good.”

The Bears had trouble winning at Soldier Field in the Fox era, but under Nagy, Chicago has six home wins (6-1) on the year -- the most since 2008.

Conversely, Green Bay is 0-6 away from Lambeau Field.

The Bears also know they let one slip away in Week 1 when they led the Packers 20-0 in the third quarter only to lose a heartbreaker, 24-23.

Chicago will never overlook Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- 17-4 lifetime in the series -- but the Bears enter Sunday a confident bunch.

“You always remember all your losses, way more than you remember your wins,” Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. “And they sting. Especially when you have the lead like we did and we didn't finish like we needed to. They remember that, they feel it. And I want them to remember that. Because sometimes when you go on through the season and you have success like we've had, you can forget that sting. And I don't want them to forget that sting because we've got a ways to go yet here. I think they'll do a good job of realizing what we had, even that first game, where we're at now. And now see if we grew from it.”