Any of us could rightfully call on the pathetic refereeing that took place on Soldier Field, when looking for reasons why the Bears lost, but that takes too much blame away from the coaches, and players, who simply did not show up for the NFC Chapmionship.
Matt Forte had a decent game, so props out to him. A select few from the defense can be acknowledged as well, for their second half efforts, but, on the whole, the Bears simply stunk on Sunday.
Lovie smith and the rest of the coaching staff need to take responsibility for losing the game. There were three main issues, with an array of smaller issues that could be pointed out, which equated to the 7-point loss:
- The team being unprepared at the start of the game
- Losing the focus on running the ball as early as the second quarter
- Allowing Todd Collins to take one snap, let alone two series, at QB
Yes, Cutler was bad while he was in there, but after watching him play behind this offensive line for two years, I will never question his toughness. Had Mike Martz stuck to the gameplan, or what should have been the gameplan, and not called on Cutler to make the perfect throw nearly every snap, Cutler may have settled down, with the run game helping him out, and he may never have gotten injured at all.
However, with the instant start that Green Bay got out to, it looked as though Martz and the Bears felt pressure to dazzle and answer back with a pretty touchdown immediately. The Packers were rapid, accurate, and energized whereas the Bears simply look stunned, slow to react, and slopyy. I'm sure that balancing out the early gameplan a bit better would have only aided Cutler, but no one on eaither side of the ball really looked sharp at all during the first half of the game.
Caleb Hanie is no superstar, but at least he gave the Bears a fighting chance, and with his spirited, yet wholly average, effort, he was able to keep the Bears in this game. I gained respect for Hanie as a competitor Sunday, but I do not trust his arm or brain any more than I already sparingly did. He deserves a tip of the cap, along with Forte, but, on the whole, Sunday just reemphasized the issues that have concerned Bears fans all year.
These nagging issues will continue to cause wonder into next year: how will we fix our offensive line, do we trust Jerry Angelo to do it, and will Lovie Smith be the coach of the Bears when they next reach the Superbowl? The answers remain to be seen, but I would guess: we won't, no, and no; leaving fans to wait and wonder for some positive action taken by the owners.
Getting back to the present, the defense is the sole unit that deserves any kudos, and even then this is strictly due to their performance in the second half. Urlacher and Briggs stepped up and lead the team proudly, but why was this effort missing throughout the first half? Some of the blame should go to the players for this lackluster first half, but when the team as whole looks as unprepared as the Bears did during Sunday's first half, the blame must primarily go to the coaching staff.
Sundays game was truly painful, but if we had known that we'd all be rooting for Caleb Hanie by the third quarter, would any of us really have given the Bears a chance? In the end, despite the obvious shortcomings of their play to that point, the Bears had a chance to win this game in the fourth quarter.
If Hanie had had Collins' snaps, maybe the Bears would have already had the game tied. If Lovie had gone for a couple of field goals when within the 40-yard line, maybe the Bears would have been within one point, or already had the lead in the fourth quarter. If Martz had balanced the passing attack with a consistent effort to run while Jay Cutler was still in the game, maybe the offense would have been more productive in the first and second quarters, and maybe Cutler would never have torn his knee. If the coaches had done their jobs a lot better, maybe the Bears would be advancing to the Superbowl.
In the end, let us remember that we all got much more out of this team than any of us expected back in August. I had them at 7-9, and I was more confident in them than many people. Let's be happy with the fact that our streaky team was able to make it this far, and lament that it had to be the Packers that smacked us back into place.
The better team won Sunday, the sad part is that once again the Bears could have stolen a game they had no place winning. Without Cutler or an effective assault from the coaching staff, the Bears just couldn't pull that out this time.