NFC North Season Recap: Chicago Bears (8-8)
By Allen Yates
Many thought this was going to be a transition year for the Chicago Bears. Rightfully so simply because they fired defensive minded tenured coach Lovie Smith and brought in offensive minded coach Marc Trestman. Along with Trestman, they brought in Kyle Long at right guard, the No. 20th pick overall to sure up the offensive line. Adding Long on the offensive line was thought to give free agent to be Jay Cutler more time to pass to an impressive assortment of talent on the offensive side of the ball.
Big bodied wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery were Cutlers favorite targets, for good reason. Cutler and Marshall have come a long way, proving that when they are matched up together they can produce big numbers. Out of the backfield came Matt Forte, another threat in the passing game as well as the running game. The bears always hung their hats on defense but this year as not the case.
While the offense was flying high at times, the defense was anything but flying. They instead were grounded with key injuries to seemlinly the entire defensive unit. Injuries on the defense included Charles Tillman, Henry Melton, Nate Collins, Kelvin Hayden, and D.J. Williams all ended up on the injured reserve while Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs sustained injuries as well. The biggest blow to the team this season was losing Jay Cutler, or so we thought.
Cutlers back up, Josh McCown filled in and played out of his mind. McCown played to a level that no one could expect, posting huge numbers, scoring touchdowns, and rarely turning over the ball. This production led Trestman with a hard decision, do you stay with the hot hand or play the player you think is better?
Through the midst of all these injuries, problems, and controversy the Bears still held their fate in their own hands. On the final Sunday of the season, the Bears were 46 seconds away from punching their ticket to the playoffs. All they had to do was hold off rival Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on a last minute score or bust drive. The injuries may have played a factor, but there was a huge breakdown in the secondary. Aaron Rodgers found a wide open Randall Cobb running free and converted a 48- yard touchdown pass to give the Packers a playoff birth and the crown in the NFC North. This heartbreaking loss summed up the Bears season in a nutshell. Miscommunication killed the team this year, but they do have bright spots to look forward to next season.
The biggest thing the Bears can look towards is a healthy team coming back next season. Aside from the obvious health getting better, they finally have a second option offensively. Alshon Jeffery finally played to his potential this past season. He smashed record books this season, and can only look to get better in the coming years. Defenses can no longer cover just Brandon Marshall, Alson gives them another huge target on the field for Cutlers disposal. The Bears can make huge strides next year if they just get everything together that they can control. If they are healthy the whole season, there should be no reason why they cant at least make the playoffs.