2011 in Review: Top 5 Bears stories

Jay Cutler's injury and Marion Barber's gaffes in Denver essentially ended the season, and Sam Hurd's arrest ended his career in Chicago. Getty Images

1. Jay Cutler fractures thumb: The Bears improved to 7-3 following an impressive home win over San Diego, and appeared a lock to qualify for the postseason for a second consecutive year. That was until Cutler fractured his right thumb which required surgery and sidelined the quarterback indefinitely. It's been all downhill since.

2. Epic collapse in Denver: Even without Cutler, the Bears led Denver 10-0 late in the fourth quarter in Week 14. Then the roof caved in. Marion Barber made two horrendous blunders that paved the way for the Bears to get Tebowed in the Mile High City. Some argue the season ended that day.

3. Matt Forte's lingering contract issue: Forte reported to training camp after receiving an assurance from general manager Jerry Angelo that his contract extension was a priority. It might have been, but the two sides were unable to reach a deal and talks eventually broke off. Forte, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl on Tuesday, was on pace for a career year before he sprained his MCL. Now he seems on pace for a holdout if/when the Bears apply the franchise tag in the offseason.

4. Arrest of wide receiver Sam Hurd: The Bears have dealt with a few legal issues throughout the years, but none on the level of Hurd, who is accused of attempting to arrange weekly purchases of cocaine and marijuana with an intent to distribute. Hurd was cut two days after his arrest, but the damage was done, as the Bears got blown out at home a few days later by the Seattle Seahawks. So much for limiting those late season distractions.

5. Bears waive goodbye to Olin Kreutz: Everybody assumed Kreutz would retire as a member of the Bears. Wrong. After a few days spent negotiating a new deal, the veteran center was given a take it or leave it ultimatum by the club. Kreutz left it, ending a 13-year relationship with the organization. He eventually signed with the New Orleans Saints, but suddenly retired in the middle of the season.