What A Difference A Half Makes: Coach Smith’s Speech Ignites Victory

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What an adjustment and complete turnaround the Bears defense and offense made during the 2nd half of Sunday Nite’s victory at Lambeau against the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers, in a 27-20 triumph that was motivated by an unusual, fired up Head Coach named Lovie Smith, not Knute Rockne; as the halftime speech given by one of the best coaches in the NFL helped spark a lethargic team doomed for a third straight loss if not for the coach’s rallying talk. This coming from a coach who’s known for being a cool, calm customer when it comes to gameday, calling out signals, and leading the troops on the sidelines, whether win or lose.

After the Bears offense stunk up the joint once again and the defense got outplayed, outsmarted, and outhustled during the first half of Sunday Nite’s contest in Green Bay, Lovie Smith showed his players a side of him they have rarely seen. The fourth-year Super Bowl Head Coach delivered a fiery halftime speech during which he told them exactly what he thought of their performance in the first two quarters against the rival Packers.

“It was probably the most animated I’ve ever seen him,” tight end Desmond Clark said after the Bears scored the game’s final 17 points to rally for a stunning 27-20 victory.

“You could tell that he wasn’t happy. He told the defense that’s not the way that we play defense around here. He told the offense just to keep plugging away because we started getting it going in the second quarter. He was very animated when he said it.”

The Bears offense opened the game with three straight three-and-outs, while the defense gave up an astounding 341 total yards and 15 first downs in the first half!

“Coach Smith really does a great job of holding his composure,” said cornerback Charles Tillman. “He really never gets mad until you really [tick] him off, and I think we really [ticked] him off that first half. I just kind of think it lit a spark for everybody, and I know how we responded. We responded well to it.”

Playing their normal cover-two defense almost every down, the Bears held the Packers to just 98 total yards and three first downs in the second half. The gutsy performance included five straight three-and-out possessions that ended with an interception and four punts.

“We came in the locker room [at halftime] frustrated, knowing that we’re a better defense,” said safety Brandon McGowan. “We gave up a lot of yards in the first half. We just came out with that demeanor like, ‘We’re going to stop these guys,’ and that’s what we did.”

The Bears are now 3-20 since 2004 when trailing after three quarters. Their two comeback victories came last season when they turned a 23-10 hole into a 24-23 win at Arizona and fired back for a 26-21 victory at Detroit when being behind 21-17. The Packers entered Sunday night’s game ranked dead-last in the NFL in rushing, averaging 54.3 yards per game. They surprised the Bears very early with a smashmouth, ball control, grind ’em run game, eclipsing that average in the first quarter alone with 73 yards on nine carries including a 44-yard stroll by DeShawn Wynn. But Chicago held Green Bay to 48 yards rushing over the final three quarters, including just 19 yards on nine carries in the second half.

Smith called the defense’s first-half performance “the worst half we have played here.”

“But they don’t crown a winner after the first half of the game,” said the Bears coach. “You have to play the full game. In the second half the guys really came out and corrected a lot of the things we did wrong in the first half—I’m talking about missed tackles and just bad play overall from the defense. The second half was the complete opposite.”

Players were motivated by Smith’s words from the heart at halftime, but they did not provide any details about exactly what the coach had said.

“The first half was terrible,” said defensive end Alex Brown. “He said what was needed to be said, and we came out and played better. But that’s the way we’ve been expecting to play. It’s not really a surprise to us. We know we can play like that every single game.” As you’ve figured out, Smith shrugged off what he said and the impact his words had on the team.

“Did you see the first half?” Smith said. “You can imagine what I said.

“It’s not like we changed up a lot of things. If you miss tackles and don’t get off blocks, you have a first half that looked like ours did. In the second half we went back to playing our brand of football. It’s as simple as that.”

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