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Bears in the 21st Century: Which Team Was Best? (Pt. 1)

This series is a historical look at Chicago Bears teams of the last 20 years, and how they stack up head-to-head.

Chicago Bears
Photo: Danny Schwartz/On Tap Sports Net via (Hester: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune, Solider Field: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images, Mack: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP, Forte: Welsey Hitt/Getty Images, Kruetz: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

In the below, I have taken the stats from every Bears team in the 21st century and put them into my game handicapping model in order to determine which Bears team would win in a tournament of Bears teams. I seeded every Bears team since 2001, and created the match ups based on seeding. The handicapping model heavily relies on Football Outsiders DVOA metrics, time of possession, turnovers, takeaways, points scored, and points allowed. 

Seeding

Seeding for this tournament was based on the following rules, in order of importance. For example, best record gets the top seed, but the 2001 Bears and 2006 Bears both made the playoffs. They also had the same record, which negates the first tie-breaker (#2). The second tie-breaker (#3) is their place in the division. Since both teams came in first in the NFC North, we need to go to the next tie-breaker: DVOA (#4). Since the 2006 Bears had the superior DVOA, they got the top seed. 

  1. Make the playoffs
  2. Regular season win percentage
  3. Final place in the division (i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th)
  4. DVOA (percentage, not ranking)

Play-In Tournament

I chose not to write about the worst Bears teams in this piece, so I created a play in tournament for the bottom eight seeds. None of these teams finished above .500, and only one of them did not finish in last in the NFC North. There was one upset here, with the #17 seed 2017 Bears beating the #16 seed 2014 Bears by three points. I am sure that Marc Trestman will be devastated, and Aaron Kromer will be throwing people under the bus.

1st Round

I am not getting into the historical details on games that were blowouts. We are considering any game with a point differential of eight or more to be a blowout. In doing this, we are not going into the historical details of the following teams:

  • 2003 Bears (7-9)
  • 2009 Bears (7-9)
  • 2007 Bears (7-9)
  • 2015 Bears (6-10)
  • 2017 Bears (5-11)

2011 Bears (#10 seed) vs 2012 Bears (#7 seed)

2011 Bears – The Year of Broken Thumbs and Broken Dreams

Regular Season – Three Big Moments

Week 9 – CHI @ PHI (PHI -9)

As nine point dogs, nobody gave the 4-3 Bears much of a chance against the 3-4 Eagles. After jumping out to an early lead, the Bears went into the half up 17-10. The Eagles received the ball after halftime, and in true Andy Reid fashion, they were superior in their halftime adjustments. The Eagles outscored the Bears by 11 points in the third quarter, and took a 24-20 lead into the fourth quarter. 

Early in the fourth quarter, the Bears received the ball near the 50 thanks to Devin Hester (PHI punted for 25 net yards). Cutler found Barber for an 8-yard completion, then Bennet for 22 yards, and then Hester for 12 yards. Then, a gift. The Eagles took a penalty for unnecessary roughness on the completion to Hester. A 12-yard gain became a 22-yard gain. The Bears were on the doorstep when Cutler found Bennett for a five-yard TD. Bears retook the lead, 27-24.

From there, the defense swarmed. The Eagles turned the ball over on downs in each of their next two possessions, and the Bears added a FG while burning seven minutes of clock. Cutler was efficient with two touchdowns and no turnovers. Forte amassed 150 yards, but lost two fumbles (his first lost fumble in 374 touches). Bennett had a big game for 95 yards. In addition, the defense played big against Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Andy Reid’s high-powered offense.  CHI 30 – PHI 24.

“All you ever hear is DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and all of the plays that they can make. So, we just wanted to go out there, make some plays, and prove the critics wrong.” – CHI WR Earl Bennett

Week 11 – SD vs CHI (CHI -4.5)

The 6-3 Bears had an afternoon kickoff against the 4-5 Chargers. Cutler and Rivers have a bit of history, so many were excited for this one. Throughout the first half, the game was an intense back and forth. Field goal for field goal. Punt for punt. Touchdown for Touchdown. And then, the clock was on the Bears side as they scored a touchdown with only 20 seconds remaining in the half, putting them up 17-10. 

The Chargers opened the second half with the ball and drove 76 yards in order to tie the score. In the fashion of this game, the Bears said “anything you can do I can do better”, as they drove 83 yards to regain a 7-point lead. On the next Chargers drive, the Peanut Punch made an appearance. On a run play, Charles Tillman punched the ball loose and recovered the fumble himself. It was Bears ball at the Chargers 37-yard line. After a 12-yard gain to Roy Williams, Cutler found Johnny Knox for a 24-yard TD, extending the Bears lead to 14 points. The Chargers added a field goal as the fourth quarter began, cutting the Bears lead to 11.

With 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Bears were looking at second-and-8 from the Chargers 31-yard line. Cutler dropped back, eyed the right side, then flipped his hips left and gunned it to Knox as he saw man coverage with a six-man blitz in front of him. Knox was running an in-cutting post towards the middle of the field, but slipped out of his break and fell to the ground. The ball floated into Antione Cason’s hands, and he was off to the races. Cason took it back 60 yards while evading chase by Cutler, and was eventually knocked out of bounds by Forte. 

Cutler took on a block while trying to make the tackle, and got his hand lodge inside Cason’s shoulder pads in the process. Two plays later, Major Wright came up with a red zone interception that allowed the Bears to run out the clock. After the game, the Bears revealed that Cutler broke his thumb on his throwing hand on the attempted tackle. He was playing the best football of his career this season, but his season was over (although he could potentially return for the playoffs). It was Caleb Hanie time. SD 20 – CHI 31.

“Jay does have a right thumb fracture. He hurt it on the tackle on the interception. Of course, we took X-Rays last night and he’ll be seeing a specialist this morning…” – CHI HC Lovie Smith

Week 14 – CHI @ DEN (DEN -3.5)

The Caleb Hanie era did not start well, as the Bears lost both games started by Hanie. This week, Hanie and the 7-5 Bears faced Tim Tebow and the 7-5 Broncos. Tebow led the Broncos to a 6-1 record in his games started, as they found ways to win despite their offensive limitations.

By halftime, the scoreboard was still goose eggs on both sides. The Bears totaled 84 yards and five punts, while the Broncos totaled 161 yards, three punts, an interception, and a missed field goal. The Bears finally got on the scoreboard with five minutes remaining in the third quarter. A Devin Hester 26-yard punt return to the Broncos 42, and 36 rushing yards by Marion Barber set up the first score of the game. The Bears added a field goal on Robbie Gould’s 57-yard attempt before the end of the third quarter to take a 10-0 lead.

With four minutes remaining in the game, there was a Tebow magic sighting. Tebow threw his way to a 63-yard drive ending in a touchdown, cutting the Bears lead to three points with just over two minutes remaining. The Bears had a chance to run clock, but on second-and-10, Marion Barber ran out of bounds on a five-yard carry. The Bears only ate one minute of clock on that drive, and were forced to punt with one minute remaining. Running out of bounds allowed Tebow enough time to get Denver into range for a 59-yard field goal, which Matt Prater nailed to force OT. 

The Bears got the ball in OT, and drove 38 yards before facing third-and-8 from the Denver 41 (long field goal range). Marion Barber took the carry for five yards before fumbling. Broncos recovered. Nine plays later, the Broncos nailed a 51-yard field goal for the win. The Bears dropped their third straight game, and sat at a record of 7-6. Their losing streak extended to five games, and they finished the season 8-8, missing the playoffs. CHI 10 – DEN 13

“I hate to say it – we gave this one to them.” – CHI QB Caleb Hanie

Playoffs

N/A

Accolades

  • Devin Hester (KR/PR) – NFC Special Teams Player of the Month (Oct.)
  • Julius Peppers (DE) – NFC Defensive Player of the Month (Nov.)

2012 Bears – The Year of Lost Love(ie)

Regular Season – Three Big Moments

Week 1, 2012 – IND vs CHI (CHI -10)

It seemed like a dream. Cutler and new/old favorite target Brandon Marshall picked up right where they left off. After an early blip in the form of a first quarter pick six, Cutler was immaculate. From that point on, Cutler went 21-32 for 333 yards and two TDs as the Bears scored 40 in the season opener, the most points they had scored since mid-2009. 

Forte added 120 yards and a TD, Marshall notched 9 receptions for 119 yards and a TD, and Michael Bush scored twice. To top it all off, the defense threw in five takeaways and three sacks. The Bears looked like they may have a real offense, and we were all anxiously waiting to see how they would follow this one up. Bears 41 – Colts 21.

“We got the guys, we have the pieces, we have the coaches.” – CHI WR Brandon Marshall

Week 9, 2012 – CHI @ TEN (CHI -4.5)

The Bears (7-1) were winning, but inconsistently, as they had a few narrow escapes. But at 7-1, it was hard to complain. They traveled down to Nashville to take on the 3-5 Titans. The Titans had seven possessions in just the first quarter, including a blocked punt returned for a TD, a pick six, and a lost fumble. 

Meanwhile, the Bears offense added two touchdowns in that first quarter, giving the Bears a whopping 28-2 lead going into the second quarter. In this game, Tillman forced four fumbles, the Bears defense generated five takeaways, Devin Hester almost returned a punt to the house (44 yards), and the Titans offense only ran nine plays in Bears territory. This game was one of the most dominant team performances that I have ever witnessed. Bears 51 – Titans 20.

“In my 50 years of owning an NFL franchise, I am at a loss to recall a regular-season home game that was such a disappointment for myself, and the fans of the Titans. We were grossly outcoached and outplayed from start to finish…” – Titans owner Bud Adams

Week 17, 2012 – CHI @ DET (CHI -3)

The Bears were playing for their football lives. Sitting at a record of 9-6, they needed to win against the 4-11 Lions in order to have a chance at a wildcard spot. The Packers already clinched the NFC North coming into their week 17 matchup with the Vikings (9-6) with a record of 11-4.  The Packers could obtain a first round bye with a win. Minnesota could knock the Bears out of the playoff picture with a win. The Bears needed to win, and the Vikings needed to lose. That was the clearest route to a playoff berth. The Bears played at noon, and the Vikings played at 3:25, so the Vikings would know the outcome before kickoff. 

The Bears jumped out to a big lead early in Detroit, as they led 20-3 late into the second quarter thanks to a few long plays and a pair of takeaways. Matthew Stafford ran a beautiful 80-yard two-minute drill to end the half with a 25-yard touchdown pass, cutting the Bears lead to 10. Then, the Bears stalled.

In the first half, Cutler was 8/15 for 175 yards and a TD. Most of that came on two passes, a 55-yard bomb to Alshon Jeffery, and a short pass to Bennett that went 60-yards to the house. The game plan was clearly to be safe with the ball, and protect the lead. 

The Lions marched down the field to score on their first possession of the second half, cutting the Bears lead to just three. On their next possession, they gifted the Bears a valuable field goal as Stafford lost a fumbled snap at the Detroit 12-yard line. After a Detroit three and out, the Bears offense was able to march 59-yards into field goal range, and add another three points to extend the lead to nine early in the fourth quarter.

Stafford kicked off the fourth quarter with an 82-yard touchdown drive, cutting the score to CHI 26 – DET 24 with seven minutes remaining. This was crunch time. The Bears defense needed to be the imposing unit they were for the majority of the season. The trouble was that they were missing the captain, Brian Urlacher, who remained sidelined. The Bears defense was able to step up and force the lions into a three and out, and the Bears offense was able to run out the clock. Ball game. CHI 26 – DET 24.

“Go Pack Go.” – CHI QB Jay Cutler on the soon to kickoff Packers vs Vikings week 17 matchup

Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story, as the Vikings and Packers were just kicking off. As every Bears fan knows, rooting for the Packers is one of the seven deadly sins. However, Bears fans did not have much of a choice. If the Packers won, then the Bears were in. Well, fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like. GB 34 – MIN 37.

Playoffs

N/A

Accolades

  • Tim Jennings (CB) – NFC Defensive Player of the Month (Sept.)
  • Charles Tillman (CB) – NFC Defensive Player of the Month (Oct.)
  • Brandon Marshall (WR) – Set CHI record for receptions (118) and receiving yards (1,508)
  • Charles Tillman became the first NFL player to force four fumbles in one game, and set the franchise record for forced fumbles on the season (10)
  • First NFL team to ever score a passing touchdown, rushing touchdown, interception touchdown, and blocked punt touchdown in the same quarter
  • Set NFL record for consecutive games with an interception touchdown (5)
  • Set CHI record for most interception touchdowns in a season (9), previous record was 5
  • Defense ranked #13 since 1950 according to Football Outsiders

Result

The 2012 Bears beat the 2011 Bears by a score of 21-19. The 2012 Bears won the time of possession by two and a half minutes, and won the turnover margin by one. 

Photo: AP

2008 Bears (#8 seed) vs 2013 Bears (#9 seed)

2008 Bears – The Year of the Neckbeards Revenge

Regular Season – Three Big Moments

Week 6, 2008 – CHI @ ATL (CHI -3)

The 3-2 Bears ventured down to Atlanta on a two-game win streak. This game was a display of defensive dominance and offensive ineptitude for most of the first half, with the Bears trailing 10-12 entering the fourth quarter. To this point, Kyle Orton was 13/18 for 168 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Matt Forte ran for 68 yards on 14 attempts with one touchdown.

The Falcons were in the red zone to open the fourth quarter, and were able to extend their lead with a touchdown, now leading 19-10. Kyle Orton drove the Bears down to the Atlanta one-yard line, where the Bears run game was smothered three straight plays as the Bears turned the ball over on downs.

The defense forced a three and out, giving the Bears offense the ball near mid-field. After driving 38 yards, the Bears settled for a field goal, narrowing the deficit to six points. After Atlanta returned the kick-off 85 yards, Jason Elam missed a chip-shot field goal. Then, the Bears drove 77 yards on the back of Orton’s shoulder, culminating in a 17-yard corner route in the end zone to Rashied Davis for a touchdown. The Bears led 20-19 with 0:11 left on the clock. 

This game should have been in the bag, but rookie QB Matt Ryan had other ideas. The Bears squibed the kick-off, and Harry Douglas returned it to the Falcons 45-yard line. In prevent coverage, Matt Ryan tossed a 25-yard sideline throw to the Bears 30-yard line, and Michael Jenkins was able to tip toe his way out of bounds before Mike Brown could make the tackle. One second remained on the clock, as Jason Elam kicked the ball 48 yards through the uprights. CHI 20 – ATL 22

“You have to play a full game. We didn’t.” – CHI QB Kyle Orton

Week 16, 2008 – GB vs CHI (CHI -4)

The Bears were sitting at a record of 8-6, with only two games remaining in the season. The playoffs were within reach, but they needed to win the next two games to have a chance. First off, they hosted the 5-9 Green Bay Packers, and first-year starter Aaron Rodgers. With thirteen minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Packers kicked a field goal to extend their lead, 17-10. 

The Bears took the ball, and drove for 36 yards to the Green Bay 34. After a dropped pass by Marty Booker, the Bears faced third-and-10. Orton dropped back to pass and found his target. He threw the ball deep right on a route breaking towards the middle of the field, and it was intercepted as Green Bay defender Nick Collins was able to jump and cut off the route. But, the Bears defense came through, forcing a three and out. The Bears offense got the ball back at midfield after a Devin Hester 24-yard punt return.  

From there, Matt Forte ripped off a 28-yard gain, then an eight-yard gain, then converted a fourth-and-1 run before hammering the ball into the end zone on the next play. TIE GAME. Rodgers still had time on the clock though, with 3:11 remaining. 

Green Bay returned the ensuing squib kick 32 yards (come on Lovie, another squib?), plus another 15 yards for unnecessary roughness. They started with the ball at the CHI 35-yard line, nearly in field goal range. After driving to the Bears 18, the Packers stalled and were forced to kick a field goal with 0:25 remaining on the clock. Once again, the defense came through, as Alex Brown emphatically blocked the field goal attempt. We are going to OVERTIME!

Opening OT, the Bears threw a swing pass to Greg Olsen, gaining 17 yards, plus another 15 yards after penalty luck swung in the Bears favor, with an unnecessary roughness call enforced on the play. From there, it is all Forte, as he gained 15 yards on the next five plays before Robbie Gould split the uprights for the win. GB 17 – CHI 20

“You know it’s going to be chilly, the ground is going to be hard. You just have to go out there and do your job. There’s no excuses for missing.” – CHI PK Robbie Gould

Week 17, 2008 – CHI @ HOU

Week 17. Playoffs on the line. Win and you have a chance at playoff glory. Lose, and it is just another mediocre season in the books. The Bears sat at 9-6, traveling to Houston to face an already eliminated 7-8 Texans team. The Texans were hot though, winning four of their last five. The Bears needed a win, and they needed Dallas and Tampa Bay to lose in order to secure the final wild card spot.

The Bears came out hot, building a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. They hit a wall thereafter, punting on their next four possessions. Meanwhile, the Texans went off, with three touchdowns in their next five drives. Entering the fourth quarter, the Bears trailed 17-21. The Texans opened the fourth quarter with a field goal, extending their lead to 17-24. 

From there, it was not fun to watch, as the Bears seemingly couldn’t do anything of substance. The Bears watched the deficit extend to 17-31 on a slow, methodical Texans drive. While the Bears narrowed the gap to seven points with 1:31 remaining and the playoffs on the line, the Texans successfully burned the clock and won the game. To add insult to injury, both the Cowboys and the Buccaneers lost, meaning the Bears would have secured the wild card spot with a win. CHI 24 – HOU 31

“Our team failed today. Overall our team didn’t play well enough this year to accomplish our goals. It’s kind of as simple as that.” – CHI HC Lovie Smith

Playoffs

N/A

Accolades

  • Matt Forte (RB) – Set CHI record for rookie carries (316), rookie yards from scrimmage (1,715), and rookie receptions (61)

2013 Bears – The Year of the Canadian Football League

Regular Season – Three Big Moments

Week 9, 2013 – CHI @ GB (GB -10)

To this point in the season, the Bears were cruising along for the most part, sitting at a record of 4-3. They were not dominating, but they were winning with good offense and some timely takeaways. This game was a battle of the backups, with Jay Cutler out for the game and Aaron Rodgers breaking his collarbone in the first quarter (the only good thing Shea McClellin ever did in a Bears jersey). So, we all got to witness Josh McCown versus Seneca Wallace!

The Bears went into half time leading 17-10 thanks to a Julius Peppers interception, a Matt Forte touchdown, and a McCown-to-Marshall touchdown. In the third quarter, Cheeseburger Eddie (Lacy) broke off a 56-yard run, but was caught at the one-yard line. It didn’t matter, as he took the next handoff into the end zone to take a three-point lead. The Bears answered with a third quarter touchdown of their own (McCown-to-Jeffery) to regain the lead (CHI 24 – GB 20). 

With 10 minutes remaining in the game, the Bears began a drive at their own 11-yard line. They ensued to eat up nine minutes of clock and traveled 80 yards on a beautiful clock killing drive, ending in a 27-yard Robbie Gould field goal, extending their lead to seven. The Packers were helpless in the final 50 seconds, and the Bears beat the Packers, ending a six-game losing streak against all things cheese. CHI 27 – GB 20.

It’d be hard to find a better one than this. They’re all special, but this is really neat because it means so much to our team.” – CHI QB Josh McCown

Week 13, 2013 – CHI @ MIN (MIN -2.5)

Sitting at a middling record of 6-6, the Bears needed to start separating themselves from the pack. They faced the Vikings, who were losers in five of their last seven. Entering halftime, this seemed like a typical Bears game under Lovie Smith, as the Bears trailed 6-7. 

Then, coming out of halftime, the Bears started with a boom. Josh McCown hit Alshon Jeffery with a deep shot for an 80-yard touchdown. On the next drive, Alshon snagged a deep 46-yard pass from McCown for another TD. Alshon “Viking Killer” Jeffery ended this game with 249 receiving yards and two TDs. Just like that, the Bears led entering the fourth quarter, CHI 20 – MIN 10.

But the bad man (Adrian Peterson) wasn’t just going to sit by and watch this happen. He powered the Vikings offense to 10 fourth quarter points, as he accumulated 211 yards on 35 carries in this game. The Bears couldn’t answer. We were going to overtime. The Bears could not make anything happen, as they appeared to be out of magic. Chicago was forced to punt in the first possession of overtime, and the Vikings were able to get into field goal range. 

Blair Walsh nailed a 39-yard field goal attempt for the win… but… the Vikings got caught cheating. Facemask, 15-yard penalty, replay the down. The attempt now extended from a 39-yard chip shot to a 57-yard prayer. The kick was no good. The Bears had a shot of life. Forte was able to carry the Bears into field goal range, and Robbie Gould lined up for the 47-yard game winning attempt…. on second-and-7.

Some might say that it would make more sense to try to get closer for the game winning attempt, but Marc Trestman did not agree. Wide right… the Vikings got another chance, and were able to capitalize on a 34-yard field goal to win. CHI 20 – MIN 23

“We were definitely in range, and I didn’t want to, at that point in time, risk a possible penalty that would set us back, similar to what happened on the other side, or a fumble of some kind. Something unique.” – CHI HC Marc Trestman

Week 17, 2013 – GB vs CHI (GB -3)

It came down to this. It always seemed to happen this way. The Bears were fighting for their playoff lives against Green Bay. Winner takes the division, loser goes home. Cutler was back for the Bears. Rodgers was back for the Packers. We’ll break this one down a little bit differently. We’re going to look at the three key plays in the game: 

  1. 2nd Quarter – 3:34 – GB 3 CHI 7: Aaron Rodgers dropped back to pass, but was pressured deep in the pocket. He stepped up, hesitated like he was going to take off, then returned his eyes downfield and ended up throwing the ball. Before he could get the ball off, Julius Peppers was smashing into his back. The ball came loose, and was rolling forward. Every Bears defender assumed this was an incomplete pass, and started to walk to the huddle for the next play. But wait. Packers wide receiver Jarett Boykin picked the ball up to hand to the official. He conversed with Rodgers for a moment, as they heard the sideline yelling at him to run. IT WAS NOT A DEAD BALL. Boykin ran the ball 15 yards into the end zone for a free touchdown. FOR SHAME! Lovie Smith’s team picks that ball up and runs for six every time. I hate Canadian football. GB 10 – CHI 7
  2. 3rd Quarter – 6:01 – GB 20 CHI 14: The Bears face third-and-4 from their own 32-yard line. Cutler took the shotgun snap and scanned the field for a moment. Feeling the pressure coming behind him, he stepped up and gunned it 40 yards down the left sideline where Alshon Jeffery was running free. Jeffery hauled it in and kept going down the sideline to the one-yard line. Forte punched it in one play later. GB 20 – CHI 21
  3. 4th Quarter – 0:46 – GB 27 CHI 28: The Packers are stuck at fourth-and-8 from the Bears 48-yard line. Rodgers took the shotgun snap, evaded pressure from Julius Peppers right in his face, rolled left, and threw a 40-yard bullet to the wide open Randall Cobb for a touchdown. The Bears safety, Chris Conte, blew his coverage. GB 33 – CHI 28

“We had a blitz on. We lost an edge. Aaron was able to get outside. Once he got outside things happen. When you’ve got a zero blitz on things happen. And we just lost coverage with our eyes in the backfield.” – CHI HC Marc Trestman

Playoffs

N/A

Accolades

  • Alshon Jeffery (WR) – PFWA’s Most Improved Player; set CHI record for most receiving yards in a game 
  • Kyle Long (OG) – NFL.com All-Rookie team
  • Devin Hester (KR) – Set record for most KR yards in a single game (249)
  • Offense broke CHI records for total yards (6,109), passing yards (4,450), passing touchdowns (32), and first downs (344).

Result

The 2008 Bears beat the 2013 Bears by a score of 24-23. The 2008 Bears actually lost the time of possession by two minutes, and both teams had two turnovers. 

Chicago Bears
Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

2019 Bears (#11 seed) vs 2020 Bears (#6 seed)

2019 Bears – The Year that Rashaad Coward shut down Club Dub

Regular Season – Three Big Moments

Week 1, 2019 – GB vs CHI (CHI -3)

The Bears kicked off their most anticipated season in years on Thursday Night Football to open the NFL season against the rival Green Bay Packers. After a long offseason of questions about how they would handle the pressure and expectations that come with a division title, it was finally time for answers. Jay Cutler was in the building. Bears 100th anniversary celebrations were in full effect. 

The Bears opened their season looking dominant on defense; could the offense match that intensity? Tarik Cohen fumbled the pitch his way, with his eyes up field rather than on the ball. He jumped on it and a penalty flag flew. Defensive holding. No harm, no foul, but this miscue set the tempo for the Bears offense that night. The defense was still dominant as ever, as they continued to stifle the Green Bay offense. The Bears offense managed to drive 16 yards and kick a 38-yard FG to take a three-point lead. The next two possessions resulted in punts before Rodgers hits a 47-yard shot to Marquez Valdes-Scantling and three plays later, the Packers found pay dirt with an eight-yard TD pass to Jimmy Graham, taking a four-point lead. 

What ensued thereafter was a blunder of offensive miscues that I wish no fan had to endure. The two offenses combined for 188 yards across 53 plays (3.54 yards per play) and a total of zero points until the 12-minute mark of the fourth quarter when the Packers began a 73-yard FG drive. The Bears got the ball back with five minutes remaining in the game, down by seven.

The Bears drove down to the Green Bay 16-yard line. After miscues on the first two red zone plays, the Bears were looking at third-and-10. Trubisky threw up a desperate prayer toward Allen Robinson (who was in double coverage) rather than living to play fourth down. The ball was intercepted by former Bear Adrian Amos. GB 10 – CHI 3

“Three points is ridiculous. Any Chicago Bears fan… should be upset.” – CHI HC Matt Nagy

Week 14, 2019 – DAL vs CHI (DAL -3)

Do not get your hopes up, but the Bears were back to .500! That was two wins in a row, and three wins in the last four games. That is what you call a hot streak! No, I do not care that the wins were against the leagues bottom dwellers. 

On the opening drive, the Cowboys drove 75 yards on 17 plays, capped by an Ezekiel Elliott two-yard TD run. The Bears appeared ready to answer with a 50-yard, eight-play drive of their own, until a Trubisky interception on a poorly thrown ball where the defender was barely able to keep his feet in bounds. Entering the second quarter, the Cowboys led by a score. It was all Bears after that. The Bears tied it early in the second quarter when Trubisky hit Robinson with a five-yard pass for the TD. They took a 10-7 lead on a 36-yard field goal. The Bears widened the lead in the closing seconds of the half with Trubisky’s eight-yard TD pass to Robinson to go into the half up by 10. 

Opening up the third quarter, the Bears went on an 11-play, 84-yard TD drive that was capped with Anthony Miller’s 14-yard TD catch. With three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Cowboys forced and recovered a fumble near mid-field. They drove 54 yards on nine plays resulting in a two-yard Elliott TD to narrow the gap to 10 points. But, the Bears answered right back with a quick hitting three-play, 60-yard TD drive, ending in a Trubisky 23-yard TD run.

Over the final eight minutes of the game, the Bears went soft in defensive coverages, and aimed to run the clock out, but failed to gain any first downs. Dallas scored 10 points in the final eight minutes of the game to narrow the deficit to seven points with just eight seconds remaining. DAL 24 – CHI 31

“Most teams at some point in time will hit some type of adversity. We went through that four-game stretch. It was difficult in a lot of different ways… Everybody’s seeing what type of people we have on this football team. No one’s flinched. We’ve pulled together. We’ve become even tighter.” – CHI HC Matt Nagy

Week 15, 2019 – CHI @ GB (GB -4.5)

Sitting at 7-6, this game meant the season for the Bears. A win would put the Bears at 8-6, with games against the Chiefs and Vikings remaining. There was a possible path to the playoffs at 9-7, and they should be in if they could win out to end up at 10-6.

On the frigid Sunday afternoon, the Bears took the opening kick-off. Coming off three straight wins, and having won four of the last five, the Bears season was still hanging on by a thread of hope. They opened the game with the ball, but no real action occurred until the third possession of the game. This Bear possession ended in a punt. However, the Bears gunner (Cordarrelle Patterson) got down the field and cleanly tackled the punt returner as he caught the punt, forcing a fumble, and the Bears recovered at midfield. Inexplicably, the refs called kick catch interference. 

The penalty gave the Packers the ball at the Bears 35, rather than the Bears having the ball near mid-field. This proved to be a major momentum swing in the game. Quickly thereafter, Rodgers put the Packers up 7-0 with a 29-yard pass to Davante Adams with five minutes remaining in the first quarter. With five minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Bears drove the field for a field goal. 

Opening the second half, the Packers drove for the score on their first two offensive possessions, making the score 21-3. The Bears were able to answer with another FG before the fourth quarter, narrowing the deficit to 15.

On the Bears first drive of the fourth quarter, they drove 67 yards on 13 plays for their first TD of the day on a two-yard pass to Anthony Miller, cutting the deficit to eight. The Bears were able to hold the Packers, but to no avail, turned the ball over on downs after driving 46 yards. Then, they forced the Packers to punt before falling inches short in heart-breaking fashion.

The final play of the game, entitled “Recess”, really symbolized the Bears season as a whole. With one second left from the Packers’ 34-yard line, the Bears opted not to throw it to the end zone. They had a play designed that began with a dump-off to Cohen. He ran to the 20-yard line before turning to his left to throw it back to Mitch Trubisky. The quarterback eluded defenders and got to the 15 before pitching it to tight end Jesper Horsted. Horsted then ran to his right, and crossed the 10-yard line. To his right was Allen Robinson, frantically waving his arms. Robinson had a path to the end zone, with Anthony Miller in front of him to block the one Packers defender in position, if he got the ball. CHI 13 – GB 21.

“At the end of the day, we didn’t do enough to put ourselves in position. We knew our backs were against the wall. We’ve gotta win to continue to keep hope alive, basically, and we didn’t do that. We (left) it in someone else’s hands and that’s not what you want to do.” – CHI LT Charles Leno Jr.

Playoffs

N/A

Accolades

  • Cordarrelle Patterson (KR) – NFC Special Teams player of the month (Nov.)

2020 Bears – The Year of Nickell Trufolesky

Regular Season – Three Big Moments

Week 3, 2020 – CHI @ ATL (ATL -2.5)

Entering the fourth quarter, the 2-0 Bears were facing a 10-26 deficit. The Falcons offense moved the ball on them, and the Bears offense had been inefficient and disjointed. Trubisky was pulled from the game early in the third quarter after throwing an interception, and it was Foles’ time. We all knew it was coming, we just did not know when. Foles struggled on his first series, gaining yards but ending the drive with an interception.

On the Bears first drive of the fourth quarter, Foles was able to hit Anthony Miller for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Falcons 17-yard line. A sign of life! Wait, a yellow flag remained on the field. The play was reviewed and the refs called it incomplete. Instead of a touchdown, it was a turnover on downs. Heart breaking.

The Bears got the ball back with nine minutes remaining. Foles completed a 26-yard pass to Ted Ginn on fourth-and-6 from the Bears 42-yard line. This was truly desperation time. The Bears were able to convert in the red zone to Jimmy Graham for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to ten with six minutes remaining.

After another three and out from the defense, who had been on fire in the fourth quarter, allowed the Bears to strike again fast. They got the ball back with five minutes remaining, and after a few small gains, Foles completed a pass to Robinson along the sideline. Robinson made one defender miss, he broke a tackle, and he ran for the end zone untouched from there. Robinson went 37 yards to cut the deficit to three. 

Yet another three and out from the defense and a penalty against Atlanta on the punt return gave the Bears the ball with great field position and four minutes to go. On the fifth play of the series, Foles dropped back and released the ball as he falls to the ground. Floating into the end zone, he hit Anthony Miller for a 28-yard score to give the Bears the lead. After an Atlanta interception and some clock burning, BEARS WON. CHI 30 – ATL 26

“Pretty special. He (Foles) was out there ad-libbing a bit for sure and checking and changing some plays. There’s one play he called, I’m like, ‘We got that?’ So it was pretty cool to see and pretty cool to be a part of.” – CHI TE Jimmy Graham

Week 5, 2020 – TB vs CHI (TB -3.5)

The 3-1 came into this home matchup with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers as an underdog. Brady had never lost to the Bears, as he had a career record of 5-0 against Chicago. This was also the first time Brady played against Foles since losing Super Bowl 52. The Bears defense showed out, as Khalil Mack recorded two sacks and the pass rush suffocated Brady late in the game. With 2:21 remaining in the game, the Bears took the ball at their own 48-yard line, trailing 19-17.

On third-and-9, Foles completed a pass to Miller for 10 yards and a first down. Then, facing second-and-11, Foles checked out of a play at the line of scrimmage and threw a floating pass towards the sideline for David Montgomery, coming out of the backfield. Monty gained 17 yards for a first down, and put the Bears in field goal range. After two more short gains, Cairo Santos nailed the field goal to retake the lead with 1:13 left on the clock. 

But, Tom Brady still had time on the clock. The defense stifled the Buccaneers offense, and Brady threw an incompletion on fourth down that all but ended the game. Brady held up four fingers as if he had one more chance to convert. But, everyone watching knew it was a fruitless attempt. BEARS WIN. TB 19 – CHI 20

“All in all, the offense made plays when they had to and I think that’s one of the special traits that I think Nick has.” – CHI HC Matt Nagy

Week 17, 2020 – GB vs CHI (GB -4.5)

The 8-7 Bears needed a win to secure a playoff spot, and of course, it came down to the final game of the season against Green Bay. Trubisky was back in at QB, and had been beating up on some lower level defenses the prior few weeks. This was a big test for him. 

The Bears broke out for the lead early with a David Montgomery touchdown in the first quarter. But, it did not last, as they trailed at halftime 21-13. In the third quarter, the Bears were able to add a field goal to cut the deficit to five points. On their next drive, they got down to the Green Bay 25-yard line, but stalled there. Rather than kicking another field goal, the Bears went for it on fourth-and 1-and failed to convert, turning the ball over on downs.  

The Packers took the ball, and drove for a fourth quarter touchdown while burning off seven minutes of time. The Bears stalled out two more times, while the Packers added another touchdown. This game was much closer than the final score, but the Bears simply failed to execute in crunch time. Despite losing the game, the Bears lucked into the final wild card spot. GB 35 – CHI 16

“The season didn’t go the way we envision it, but we have another opportunity. It’s got to be our best week. It’s got to be my best week.” – CHI QB Mitchell Trubisky

Playoffs

  • Wild Card Round: CHI 9 – NO 21

“Making the playoffs is great, but what we did today has to be a lot better. Today wasn’t good enough. And you look at a team like the Saints that has been there, done that on the coaching side, player-wise. I think that that’s a start for us to realize ‘You want to go ahead and do damage in the playoffs.’ You can see situationally, discipline-wise, all that stuff, how we’ve got to be better.” – CHI QB Mitchell Trubisky

Accolades

  • Cairo Santos (PK) – NFC Special Teams player of the month (Dec.)

Result

The 2019 Bears beat the 2020 Bears in the upset, by a score of 21-20. Time of possession was almost equal in this game, but the 2019 Bears won the turnover margin by one.

Photo: RemixN007 via YouTube

The 2nd round, 3rd round, and championship will all be covered in part two of this series.

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4 months ago

[…] first round of the “tournament” was covered in part one, which can be found here. This feature covers the second round through the […]

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