It ended in just about the worst way possible: losing to the Packers. In the playoffs. In Soldier Field. With the Halas Trophy on the line, and giving the Packers a shot at the Lombardi Trophy. I say “just about the worst way possible” because I’m sure there’s something that could have made it worse. Maybe an extinction-level event shortly after the final whistle (though at least in that case the agony would have been short-lived).
And yet, I can’t be too angry at the Bears. I can’t blame the defense for letting Green Bay waltz down the field on the opening drive. I can’t blame the mediocre performance of the special teams. I can’t blame the relatively poor punting game. I can’t blame the offense, which was totally impotent until the fourth quarter. I can’t blame the O-line, which was once again exposed for being mostly smoke-and-mirrors. I can’t blame Cutler, who seemed to be looking for any excuse to get out of the game. I can’t blame the Bears’ coaches for failing to find a backup any better than Todd Collins, or failing to develop Hanie into a better QB. Heck, I can’t even blame them for putting Hanie in the game two plays too early, which prohibited Cutler from coming back in the game due to some bizarre quarterback substitution rule.
No, in this case, the blame for Chicago’s devastating loss rests with me. It was entirely my fault.
You see, my coed beer league soccer team had a quarterfinal match scheduled for 6:15. The field is thirty minutes away from my mansion. I would either have to miss part of the Bears game, or part of the quarterfinal. I decided to DVR the Bears game, watch until about 5:45, then hop in the car and listen on to the game on AM 930.
Everything was going according to plan. I hopped in the car, Bears down 14-7. I got to the field with a few minutes to spare, by which time it was Packers, 21-14. I put on my guards, socks, and cleats as Caleb Hanie led that fateful, final drive down the field…
But kickoff was coming. I took off my lucky C-shirt, which I wear during Bears games, and put on my soccer jersey. By the time I got to the sideline, Hanie had thrown the final interception and the game was over. If I’d waited just a few more minutes, or even worn the C-shirt underneath my jersey, the Bears undoubtedly would have won.
I hereby apologize to the players, coaches and personnel of the Chicago Bears, to the entire city of Chicago and state of Illinois, to my fellow Bears fans all over the world, including and especially President Obama, and to the late George S. Halas, Edward “Dutch” Sternaman, and A. E. Staley, the founders of the Chicago Bears. I hang my head in shame and sorrow, and vow to never again fail you by removing the C-shirt during a Bears game.
In happier news, we won our quarterfinal 5-0. I scored three goals (one of which was actually a deflection off a defender while I was trying to pass to a teammate), an assist, and a secondary assist, which only exists in hockey but I’m counting it anyways.
On a slightly more serious note, I thought the defense played well after that first drive. I think that, just like in the last game against the Packers, the Bears’ offensive weaknesses were exposed: a weak offensive line, no true number-one receiver, and erratic mechanics by Cutler (namely, throwing off the back foot). I’ll give Mike Martz credit for getting the O-line to work well enough for long enough to win as many games as the Bears did, but they need to upgrade the line this off-season. It might even be worth giving up a defensive starter to bring in some decent offensive linemen and help the Bears put together longer drives. It’ll make the running game better, give Cutler an easier job with more time to throw, and keep he defense off the field longer.
They need better QB coaches for Cutler. They need to dump Todd Collins and get a better backup. They also need to work on Hanie, who–granted–got the Bears back in the game, but also threw the pick-six that was the difference in the end, and threw a pick to kill off the Bears’ last drive.
I think the play of the game was Urlacher’s interception. More specifically, I think the play of the game was when Aaron Rodgers tackled Urlacher on the runback and saved a touchdown. True, it would have only made the game 14-7, but you knew the Bears’ offense wasn’t going to do anything with that turnover, and sure enough, they didn’t.
What a disgusting end to the season. At least the Packers are guaranteed to lose the Super Bowl since they don’t have Jim McMahon on their roster.