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It's Been a Long Journey Since Cleveland

At least for two games the Bears have performed completely the opposite of the miserable showing in Cleveland and feel they have momentum heading into a showdown against the rival Packers.

The Bears offer several explanations for their turnaround from two weeks ago when they were embarrassed in Cleveland.

An offensive identity created from the ashes of a miserable 47-yard offensive effort, the offensive line coming together to make the running game work, the play-calling change to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and a defense which overcame its own problems in Week 1 all rate high on the list.

Safety Tashaun Gipson on Tuesday at Halas Hall offered up a less conventional reason why they were able to do this, but one difficult to deny.

"I've seen some stuff coming in that's saying we're one of the older teams in the National Football League," Gipson said. "It comes with perks. There's a lot of guys that have played a lot of football.

"Guys not panicking. Nobody's hitting the panic button. You have a mature group of guys who can still play football at a high level."

Gipson said their experience let them fight through it.

"Nobody's panicking, man," he said. "Yeah, we put out some bad football but we understand the guys that we have and we're mature enough to understand this is a long season. 

"It's not how you start, it's always how you finish. And that's our mindset right now. We're starting to catch our stride. Little things we can clean up right now, obviously, but we're catching our stride and it's exciting for us."

A study of rosters done as the season was starting did say the Bears had the oldest team in the NFL, and they do have 39-year-old Jason Peters. Gipson is one of four defensive starters age 30 or older, and it's five when Danny Trevathan is in the lineup. However, they are largely a very young team mixed in with a few older vets.

To Gipson, the win over Detroit was a starting point and a morale booster and now they have the chance to take this streak longer. If they do, it will be a real confidence booster because they have to face Green Bay Sunday and have lost their last four games against the Packers.

"Any time you can win in the National Football league, it's always big and it's just a morale booster, winning the big games when they count," Gipson said. "Obviously I think that coming in with the right mindset going into Las Vegas, playing against a good Raiders team, it was just a mental thing. So once you get that bad taste out your mouth—obviously we put some bad tape on film in the beginning of the year, once we kind of settled down, everybody kind of honed in, we was playing our brand of football, offensively, defensively and special teams.

"And once it's clicking in this league—it's a momentum league. Once you get that momentum, the ball is rolling, man. You feel like you can beat anybody, you can play with anybody, and that's the phase that we're in right now. We're playing complementary football right now. Offense is doing what they need to do. Defense is playing phenomenal right now. Special teams is coming up big for us right now."

The key point on special teams is kicker Cairo Santos and his 34-kick streak, after making two critical 46-yard field goals in the fourth quarter.

"I think that Cairo deserves a ton of credit," wide receiver Allen Robinson said. "Since the day that he stepped foot in the building he's been a pivotal part of a lot of games for us, being able to make a lot of field goals down the stretch, games where we couldn't come away with touchdowns.

"Cairo was right there, very dependable helping us put points on the board. Sometimes, you know, even if you don't come away with touchdowns all the points help. You know, so, Cairo has been phenomenal."

The offensive line improvement might be the most drastic change. They went from nine sacks allowed and 47 net yards two weeks ago against the Browns to three sacks and 331 net rushing yards for the last two games combined.

"I think we knew what we put against the Browns was not us and we didn't want to go down that slope," left guard Cody Whitehair said. "I just think it was everybody collectively getting involved and saying 'Let's turn this thing around.' You could just tell the mentality changed around the team in practice, meetings and everything is translated over to the game. I like where we are at right now and we have to keep it going."

The line wanted to forge its own identity, not let 47 net yards and 1 net yard passing be their calling card.

"I think it just comes back to the team taking what we did collectively as a team against the Browns and being like 'We don't want this to be who we are,' " Whitehair said. "And you can tell the mentality of the whole team, not just offensively, but the whole team changed after we got back into practice after the Browns game.

"And that's what I've seen moving forward, a shift in mentality, the team taking just ownership of what we put out on the field."

The turnaround made, the task they now face extending it looks much tougher.

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