THE MORNING AFTER: A picture is worth a half-season

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – You can’t do anything you want. Michael Thomas proved that in the Superdome with his creative but eventually ruled to be “a little too much” cell phone touchdown celebration.

But the National Football League’s relaxing of celebration rules has opened up room for some creativity from the players and teams when it comes to endzone celebrations. Recreations of movie scenes, dance numbers, event the birth of a child have been depicted by some conveying joy at the idea of scoring a touchdown.

Each is fitting of their own team, an extension of themselves. That’s why the Bears’ demonstration in the end zone on Sunday made so much sense.

Following Jordan Howard’s late second quarter touchdown on Sunday against the Bills, which is easily his most impressive scoring rush of the season so far, the offense came together as one in the end zone.

On the spot, the group located a photographer in front of them, took a couple of seconds to gather around, and then got the picture. Before the end of the game, the picture was already posted on the team’s Twitter page.

It’s a snapshot of joy, a memorable part of a dominating 41-9 win over a Buffalo Bills team whose playoff berth from a year ago seems a distant memory. That would be the opposite of the team doing the winning on this day in Orchard Park and finding the perfect pose for a picture.

“Yeah it feels good,” said Mitchel Trubisky of the dominant win. “I feel like we’re in a good spot as a team, but we’re also eager to get into the division play. We’re excited to get back to work and prove ourselves in the division. We can’t wait to get back to Soldier Field to defend home field, so we feel like we’re in a good place.”

Right now that is literally halfway through the season, and at 5-3 it’s a tremendous achievement. Already the Bears have event their win total from last year and 2014, bested it from 2016, and are just one game behind their mark from 2015. But, like the picture, it’s the way the Bears have been providing the wins that’s made it the most fun.

Their offense, while at time spotty, has shown signs of what it can produce in a creative Matt Nagy offense. Players have been used in unique formations, starting with the “T” in the first play of the game, continuing with a few appearance of the “Willie Wonka” formation. Even defenders like Eddie Jackson have gotten to see some time on the offense.

Meanwhile the second-year safety has been part of a defense that’s producing turnovers in bunches, especially interceptions. They’ve got 14 so far this season, just one off the NFL lead, and is nearly double their total the past three seasons (8 in 2015, 2016, and 2017). Before his injury, Khalil Mack’s ability to get to the quarterback made the Bears’ defense a must-see event.

Fun. That’s a word not associated with the Bears for nearly a decade, but it is for this team. Not only are they successful, but their brand of football is entertaining, enticing, and has fans excited for more.

They’ll get it over the next eight weeks in the first legitimate charge for the playoffs by the team since 2013. The creative play calling figures to continue, and if the play does as well, the team could find themselves in the postseason for the first time since 2010.

“I feel like myself and the guys on the team, we still carry ourselves with a chip on our shoulders,” said Trubisky. “We’re trying to earn that respect across the league that we are a good team in all three phases and that we can play with anybody. We’re eager to prove ourselves and excited for the opportunities ahead.”

While having some fun doing it. That picture they took in the second quarter spells that out.