Golden opportunity eludes Bears

CHICAGO -- No other team in the playoffs, arguably in the past several playoffs, had so much riding on one game.

If the Bears had beaten the Green Bay Packers on Sunday instead of losing 21-14 in the NFC Championship Game, they would have advanced to their second Super Bowl in five years. Forget the three years in between, that would have put them in elite company with teams like Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and New England.

If the Bears had won with Jay Cutler, the much-maligned quarterback would have been elevated at least a rung or two on the NFL's quarterback ladder. Elite? Maybe not, but depending on how he performed in the Super Bowl, he'd certainly be entrenched in the next group, having finally won the respect of fans and fellow players.

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