Lovie Smith told ESPN before Sunday's game that his players would not be told how much they would be playing against the Packers. The reason being? He made that mistake in 2006, and although they went all the way to the Super Bowl, they came out flat in their first playoff game.
This time the Bears would play to win.
They did not. But the fight was good.
And they never wavered from the game plan to beat the Packers.
“Why would we do that when there’s a chance to win a football game? No, that was never a part of the mindset at all,” Smith said after the 10-3 loss at Lambeau Field.
Julius Peppers added, “I’m happy. That’s what I’m here for. I’m a player I’m not a coach.”
Peppers co-MVP, Brian Urlacher, echoed those thoughts, saying "we played hard. Coach told us we were going to play, we played, and we appreciate that.”
The defense said all week they weren't happy with their effort against the Jets. Two sacks of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a forced and recovered fumble, and a Peanut Tillman interception later, they're still not satisfied. The Bears defense says they weren't even playing close to playoff speed.
“No no no" Urlacher insisted, "because it wasn’t a playoff game for us.”
Charles Tillman notched a pick that held up a Packers challenge, and a recovered fumble.
"Can we play better? Yeah, you strive to be perfect," Tillman said.
Safety Chris Harris left with a stinger, but afterward declared himself healthy.
“Its definitely going to get kicked up another notch cause everything’s on the line,” Harris said. Nick Roach (shoulder) and Major Wright, who left on crutches with a foot injury, also didn't finish the game.
The offense was bothered by the noise level at Lambeau, and communication issues forced a few unplanned timeouts and protection miscues.
"They kept us out of sync, taking us out of our hots and delaying the blitz," Jay Cutler said of the Packers' defense.
Olin Kreutz and Matt Forte were the pigeon carriers of communication, but also admit to calming down their quarterback Jay Cutler, too.
“It was extremely loud, which took away some of our communications, and hopefully we can learn how to communicate in that kind of atmosphere” Kreutz explained.
Forte said it was all about keeping focus.
"When you’re in an atmosphere like that -- it’s loud and stuff like that, you have mistakes here and there. All you have to do is get settled in,” Forte said. A loss is a loss, but with nothing to lose in this one there's nothing wrong with the bright spots.
Forte crossed the 1,000 yard rushing mark and 500 yard receiving plateau for the season, something only "Sweetness" Walter Payton has done in a Bear uniform.
"Just to be mentioned with Walter Payton’s name is really something special to me” Forte added.
As for their head coach, Smith is looking ahead.
"There is nothing negative about what happened today," Smith said, with his postseason game face on. “We’re an 11-5 football team. We’re ready for a team to come to Soldier Field as we wait, as we earned that bye.”