Different Bears team awaits Eagles in playoffs

MINNEAPOLIS -- Chicago Bears right guard Kyle Long stewed inside the visitors locker room at Lincoln Financial Field following last season’s 31-3 trouncing at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles.

The game was a complete blowout by halftime, and to add insult to injury, the Eagles performed several choreographed team celebrations following touchdowns and turnovers -- the kind of meticulously planned-out celebrations that the Bears have regularly done this season.

But let’s just say Philadelphia was a little ahead of the on-field party curve last season.

“Look, I’m not here to watch celebrations,” Long snapped that afternoon. “I’m here to block the defensive front and get yards. We got negative six [rushing] yards today. I could give two s---s about their celebration. If they want to go on 'Dancing with the Stars,' that’s great for them. We’re trying to win football games. We didn’t do that today. I’m glad they’re well-choreographed in their dance routines. We have to find a way to win football games.”

What a difference a year makes.

The Bears are now the team that continually finds ways to win football games. Chicago heads into its opening round playoff matchup against those very same Eagles winners of four in a row and nine of 10.

And Long’s mood was far from foul after the Bears’ 24-10 victory at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Rather, Long, who returned from injured reserve and played his first snaps in two months in Week 17, expressed genuine excitement to face Philadelphia in the first round of the postseason, especially since Long’s older brother, Chris, remains a staple on the Eagles’ front seven at defensive end.

“It will be such a blast to see my brother out there,” Long said with a smirk. “No, it will be a lot of fun, and at least my folks will be able to be there. I don’t know if Fox is covering the game, so I don’t know if my dad [football analyst Howie Long] will be there, but I know Chris and my mom will be there, so that is good.

“I’m happy for both of us and proud of him. They have had a tough start and have battled back and have an incredibly talented team. It is going to be a tough game at home.”

The challenge of taking on the defending Super Bowl champions is always daunting, but the Bears are dripping with confidence. For a team that hasn’t reached the postseason since 2010, the Bears have carried themselves like a perennial playoff team under head coach Matt Nagy, who only strengthened the team’s bond by his decision to forgo resting starters in order to end the Vikings’ season.

“I believe in Coach Nagy,” Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “He has done us right so far, going through OTAs, training camp and now in the regular season. If he feels like it’s time for us to play, we are going to go out there and play ball.

“We are super excited. If you guys didn’t see ‘Club Dub,’ it was amazing. We are super excited to go play some good football against the reigning Super Bowl champs.”