I really, truly hope the 2010 Bears don't go down as a team that got lucky all season. I realize there was some fortune involved in staying healthy, in facing debilitating opponents and reaping the benefit of an arcane NFL rule in their Week 1 victory over the Detroit Lions. But a team unworthy of the NFC Championship Game wouldn't have pushed back into Sunday's game like the Bears did. Down 14-0 early in the second quarter? A team that was merely lucky would have rolled over and been blown out at that point. But over the final 41 minutes of the game, the Bears held the Packers' offense to no points, 11 first downs and 172 yards. It was a gutsy stand, even as their own offense rolled through the chaos of three quarterback changes. Once and for all, I hope that convinced you the Bears were a legitimate Super Bowl contender this season.
The most inexplicable personnel decision the Bears made this season was hardly noticed until Sunday. During their Week 8 bye, the Bears quietly moved Todd Collins ahead of Caleb Hanie on their quarterback depth chart. Collins had been temporarily demoted after his four-interception game in Week 5 against the Carolina Panthers, but we can only presume that offensive coordinator Mike Martz felt more comfortable with a veteran presence behind Cutler. On Sunday, Collins proved he had no business ahead of Hanie on the depth chart. I don't think it cost the Bears the game, but it sure resulted in a wasted series of possessions. Packers players admitted Hanie's mobility forced them to be cautious, and it was clear the Bears derived immediate energy from his entrance into the game.
I thought linebacker Brian Urlacher put a final stamp on what was a remarkable comeback season for him. He was all over the field, finishing with a team-high 10 tackles, a sack and a red zone interception. He also assumed the postgame leadership role that normally goes to the quarterback, angrily and passionately defending Cutler for leaving the game with a knee injury when he would have had every right to be disappointed by his departure. Kudos to Urlacher for bringing his game back to a level few thought he could reach this season.
And here is one issue I don't get:
After the obvious success derived from a balanced offense in the second half of the season, I'm not sure why Martz panicked so early Sunday and abandoned the run in the second quarter. As we just noted, there were 41 minutes of game time remaining when the Packers grabbed their 14-0 lead. Every instinct suggested the Bears needed to trust their defense and stay on point. Instead, Martz called 10 consecutive passing plays. The Bears' offensive line long ago demonstrated that it wouldn't be able to protect Cutler unless opponents at least feared the possibility of a run. Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji said the Packers were confident that if "we stopped their run, none of their quarterbacks could beat us." But in that second quarter, Martz made it a lot easier for them. It wasn't until Cutler left the game that Martz went back to the running game, probably by necessity in order to protect Hanie. But in a key portion of the game, Martz forgot what got the Bears this far.