The Story of the 2011 – 2012 Bears Season

Last Sunday when the Lions won and the Bears lost, the book was shut on any Super Bowl hopes for the Bears.  Scenarios in which the Bears enter the playoffs are now so improbable, that Sam Hurd is more likely to get into the Hall of Fame than the Bears are to get into the playoffs.

The season came to its climax in a series of spectacular failures.  With the playoffs out of reach, the last few games left in the season are only footnotes. It’s time to write the story of the season. No, the patient is not in the coffin yet, but it’s time to prepare the eulogy.

 

Expectations (Prologue)

After such an abysmal game against the lackluster Seahawks team, it can be hard to remember that this season wasn’t always a disappointment.

In the pre-season, the Bears were nobody’s Cinderella pick.  Still, most of Las Vegas, Grantland and I, myself, all picked the Bears to finish somewhere around 8-8.  They had a murderous first quarter of the season, an unhappy running back, coming off of a season that, by his standards, was below average. People also worried about the rule changes limiting the Bears on special teams, what’s more, the division seemed to be getting better all around them.

After the Bears went 7-3, expectations rose considerably, thanks to the continued success of an aging defense and the excellent play of that, as yet un-contracted, running back.

 

The First Ten Games (Acts 1 and 2)

The Bears worked their way into the front position for the NFC Wild Card with a record of 7-3.  While their rivals in Green Bay won the initial tilt and maintained a stranglehold on the Division lead, the Bears were able to beat the teams they were supposed to beat and rack up a 4-1 record against teams under .500.

 

The Losing Streak (Act 3)

The Bears season took a turn during the November 27th game against the Oakland Raiders, when Jay Cutler succumbed to a shoulder injury.  This marked the first of a series of injuries to key offensive players including Matt Forte and Johnny Knox.

At first pundits argued that with a relatively weak upcoming schedule, the injuries were happening at the best possible time.  That did not prove to be the case and with the Sunday’s loss to Seattle, the Bears all but sealed their fate.

 

The Next two games (Epilogue)

Is it possible to have a good season after a series of crushing defeats that knock them out of the playoffs? No.  But, as Lovie Smith and other Bears players and personnel were eager to point out after the game, the Bears have the Packers next week.  And they always get up for their rivals, playoffs or no playoffs. Maybe, maybe not.

No one had to ask Lovie if he was disappointed after the game, the emotion showed on his face and in his voice.  Whatever joy the Bears might take in winning a largely meaningless game against Green Bay, will disappear the first time they have to watch the Packers play in the playoffs.

 

Cutler’s break-out season (Appendix)

Before the year began two sentiments were unavoidable:

1. If the Colts go 0-16, Peyton Manning should get the MVP by default

2. This was Cutler’s year to break out with the Bears.

After the Colts’ victory this Sunday, Peyton won’t be getting the MVP in absentia that he may deserve, but few players’ reputations can have benefited more from their injuries and the teams resulting incompetence than Jay Cutler’s.

Cutler played well this season (though not transcendently), his injury was the turning point in the narrative of the Bear’s season.  For better or worse, the story of the 2011 Bears season will split into “pre-injury” and “post-injury. “ Cutler’s ability will be remembered as the key component to the Bears success.  At least somebody gets a happy ending.

About Casey Brazeal

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