CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears eventually turned to Caleb Hanie after starting quarterback Jay Cutler went down with a knee injury, and the third-stringer led the Bears to two touchdown drives in a 21-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
"It's a lonely feeling to fight and go through training camp and everything else and get to this point and have an opportunity to get in the Super Bowl," Cutler said. "It's hard. [There were] so many shots we took earlier in the year and able to bounce back. [To be] in the situation we were and to have things happen like that, it's tough."
Cutler said he will undergo an MRI on Monday.
He said he injured his knee on the second-to-last series of the first half. His status was in doubt leading up to the second-half kickoff with backup Todd Collins even taking warm-up tosses. But Cutler started the second half, throwing an incomplete pass in a three-and-out opening drive.
"We gave it a go that first series, but I really couldn't plant and throw. So they kind of pulled me," Cutler said.
Collins replaced Cutler on the Bears' next series and was ineffective, throwing four incomplete passes. Hanie checked in with 57 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Hanie, who had thrown for a total of 66 yards in his two seasons in the NFL, completed 13 of 20 passes for 153 yards and one touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions, including a pick to B.J. Raji, who returned it 18 yards for a touchdown.
"Feel real good about what Caleb was able to do," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "As a third quarterback you don't get a lot of reps, but he stayed in the game mentally and really felt like he belonged there. We had an opportunity at the end to tie the game and that was done with Caleb leading it. We can't complain about his play at all."
Hanie said Cutler gave him some advice on the sideline.
"He calmed me down a little bit, helped me out by saying 'Trust your line, trust your receivers, just go out and make throws. Don't try to do too much,'" Hanie said.
Smith said Cutler was disappointed he could not continue.
"He was hurt, and he couldn't go," Smith said. "Trainers, doctors and all, they are the ones who really made that decision. As far as Jay, he is like everyone else; he was disappointed he couldn't go out and play to help his team win."
Smith grew agitated when asked again about Cutler not returning.
"He hurt his knee and he was out, all right? There's nothing else for me to tell you on that," Smith said. "I don't know exactly when it happened. He couldn't go, and we moved on. Let's go to some other questions, how about that?"
Some current players took to Twitter after the game to comment on Cutler's injury and subsequent removal from the game.
Arizona's Darnell Dockett posted on his Twitter account, "If I'm on chicago team jay cutler has to wait till me and the team shower get dressed and leave before he comes in the locker room! #FACT."
Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew added his thoughts, tweeting, "All I'm saying is that he can finish the game on a hurt knee... I played the whole season on one..."
Cutler had no comment regarding what others were saying.
"I was gonna keep playing," Cutler said. "But they made the decision that giving Todd a shot would better suit the team.
"I knew it's probably better that I didn't [go back into the game]. I knew my knee. I knew my body."
Cutler completed 6 of 13 passes for 80 yards and an interception in the first half for the Bears, who trailed 14-0 at the break. He finished with a passer rating of 31.8.
"[Cutler is] a tough guy, a big old guy," Hanie said. "He takes hits really well, so obviously you don't expect or plan on going in, but you still have to prepare just in case."
ESPNChicago.com's Michael C. Wright contributed to this report.