Fans in Chicago and nationwide may be more willing to jump on the Bears bandwagon after their impressive win over the Eagles on Sunday but players themselves remain grounded, which is becoming a distinguishing characteristic of an 8-3 team that would have a first-round bye and a home playoff game if the season ended today.
"We're not really in this business to get respect," tight end Greg Olsen said. "Obviously, at the same time, you do want to be recognized for your hard work and the wins and being productive and successful. But at the same time, we really don't get too wrapped up in having people talk positive about us. We expect to go out there and play hard every week. We don't need any extra motivation that doesn't come from within this building, and that's the truth. I think from Coach Lovie [Smith] down, the confidence and the pride that we take in playing well for him, for the organization, for the fans, really is enough that we don't really need any other outside motivation."
Players were animated in the locker room after the 31-26 win over Philadelphia but there was also a sense of resolve the day after the team's fourth-straight win.
"I wouldn't say we're one of the best or we're this or we're that," said defensive end Israel Idonije. "We're where we want to be --- in great position right now. We've just got to keep getting better every week and that's what we're going to do. It's a one-week-at-a-time schedule. We have Detroit coming up and they're the team we've got to beat. That's our focus and that's everything. That's it. We'll look at who's best and all those other things later."
Not even a date with the 2-9 Lions, who lost to the Patriots 45-24 on Thanksgiving, can make this team overconfident, which is perhaps a product of home losses to the Seahawks and Redskins earlier this season and the memory of a near loss to Calvin Johnson and the Lions on Opening Day.
"It's human nature to rest on your laurels and feel good about yourself and pat yourself on the back," Olsen said. "Everyone is saying good things. That's easy to kind of get nonchalant and complacent. We had that same thing happen after the big Green Bay game, but we've matured and moved on from that. People probably would have thought we'd have a letdown against Miami after a big home division game against Minnesota. Four days later, we went down and beat a very good team on short rest on the road. We've matured and we've moved on from that and said, 'Hey, just because you win one, that doesn't mean the rest of the season taken care of.' We have to get back to work, and we know how good this Detroit team is."
Here's what veteran center Olin Kreutz said Sunday night when asked what the win over Philly meant: "We understand that it makes the next game that much bigger. That's what we're looking at now. We're looking at Detroit. We have to go up there with the same intensity.
"We're nowhere near where we want to be. We have to keep fighting to get better. We're not satisfied. That's the worst thing you can be this time of year. We want to stay hungry. We want to get better. There's so much more we can do with the talent we have."
Bears coach Lovie Smith has been criticized often for his low-key approach in the past, but this team seems to be feeding off it.
"Guys have a tremendous amount of respect for him and want to play for him and play hard and win for him," Olsen said. "I don't think that's the case everywhere around the league. His mentality of he doesn't let the ups get him too high, and he doesn't let the downs get him too low, I think is huge. It's a long season. I don't care what team you are or how good you are, you're going to have tough moments that you have to learn to get through. When the leadership at the top has that kind of demeanor, it kind of trickles its way down and it's contagious."