How Bears Are Drawing Belief From Nationals

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- When the Bears gathered for a meeting Thursday morning, coach Matt Nagy wanted to remind his team what it can still accomplish.

So Nagy presented the Bears with the most recent example of championship resilience in sports -- the World Series champion Washington Nationals, who opened the regular season at 19-31 and appeared to be buried. But the Nationals fought back to earn a playoff berth, staged a furious rally in the National League wild-card game and ended up staving off elimination five times and defeating the Astros, 6-2, in Game 7 on Wednesday night to win the title.

The Bears (3-4) learned of the Nationals' path to a championship, then listened to postgame interviews as players spoke of the belief that allowed them to reach the pinnacle.

"How amazing is that," Nagy said Thursday. "People that stick together, people that get tighter in adversity, people that never quit, people that say, 'So what. Now what?' But then they do it.

"How do you not show that to your guys and let them pull from that? That's a really cool moment from them. That should be something that all of us can learn from in the sports world."

The Nationals overcame their poor start in part because key players like Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner returned from injuries. They were just 50 games in when they began their turnaround, a little less than one-third of the season. The Bears face a different challenge. They are 2.5 games back of a wild-card spot with a difficult schedule ahead. They've played seven of their 16 regular-season games.

While the circumstances between the Bears and Nationals are different, the parallels are natural. 

Bears nickel cornerback Buster Skrine, a baseball fan who spent much of his offseason at a Chicago ballpark, found himself captivated by the words of Nationals manager Dave Martinez after their Game 7 victory.

"It all starts in-house," Skrine said. "Just believing in yourself and the team. I think that's what the Nationals did. Being under .500 at one point in the year, deep into the season and turn things around.

"They believed in themselves. How the culture for the team was always there. That's all that mattered."

Bears center James Daniels heard the voices of Nationals players after their win as they reflected on their rise to a championship.

"It just shows that when you keep on fighting, no matter how the season started, you can always finish with a good ending," Daniels said.

"They all said how they persevered as a team, just stuck it out. And they ended up as World Series champs."

Back in early April, Nagy took his sons to the Masters, where they watched how Tiger Woods earned a major victory that many thought he would never again claim. The moment spoke to Nagy. 

He thought of the resolve from Woods at the Masters and how Virginia went from upset by a No. 16 seed in 2018 to winning a national championship a year later, then imagined how the Bears could overcome the disappointment of their heartbreaking wild-card round loss to the Eagles with a strong 2019 season.

Instead, the Bears have found themselves mired in more adversity. They have lost three straight games, and their playoff hopes appear bleak.

It's why Nagy wants the Bears believing they can respond like the Nationals.

"I hope they took it the right way in that it's never easy," Nagy said. "There are so many teams that have had tough losses. Sometimes it's not over the course of 50 games like it was with the Nationals. That's a long time to start off going that route. Sometimes, it's just a big game or a tough loss. That's the one we were spitting off of. After yesterday, you see that this thing is a marathon. You need to be really coming into your own by the end of the year. 

"When did they finish? They did their damage in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning. That's when they did their damage. And they won because of it. It's always about how you finish."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.