Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Sunday, December 18, 2011
This is Bears football

By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- As unbelievable as it sounds, Sam Hurd's ill-fated Nino Brown impression wasn't the worst news to hit the Chicago Bears this week.

Hurd, the ex-Bear accused of federal drug crimes this week, allegedly thought he was a lead character in "New Jack City." We allegedly thought the Bears were a playoff team. Both Hurd and the Bears were exposed this week.

Earl Thomas
The Bears managed 11 completions on 25 pass attempts in Sunday's loss.

After a 38-14 loss to Seattle and 31 unanswered points in the second half, I'm left to wonder: Can the Bears petition the league to end the season early?

I know we're worried about head injuries now, maybe that could be the excuse.

I don't have Commissioner Goodell's number, but my argument would be these Bears have committed a personal foul to good football. Four losses in a row? To these teams?

The sad truth is there is no upside anymore to watching this team. Unless Tim Tebow can save the fourth quarter of the Bears' season, let's just have "Madden" simulate the last two games and save everyone the trouble. The Bears can go on vacation and we can go on having fun watching the Bulls and Blackhawks.

Technically, the playoffs are still in reach, but after this one, no one thinks this is a playoff team, least of all the players.

"It's tough," said running back Kahlil Bell, who scored his first NFL touchdown Sunday. "Four weeks we were sitting at the top of the NFC. Now I don't even know."

The Bears are in eighth place in the NFC, Kahlil, and this isn't the National Hockey League. So it's not looking great.

On a serious note, Johnny Knox left the game on a stretcher after getting drilled trying to recover his own fumble in the first quarter. The Bears announced he will undergo surgery Monday to stabilize vertebrae in his back. When PR officials said "prognosis for his career and quality of life were positive," it didn't sound too positive to me.

For Knox, you can only hope for the best. In the NFL, you're supposed to dust off injuries. But now, the Bears go into Green Bay without Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and Knox.

To make a now unlikely trip to the playoffs, Chicago (7-7) needs Detroit (9-5 after Sunday's win over Oakland) to lose out, Seattle (7-7) to lose once and oh yeah, it has to win at Green Bay next week and at Minnesota on New Year's Day. Considering the Bears just lost to Oakland, Kansas City, Denver and Seattle in consecutive weeks, feel free to make plans for the second week of January.

While Denver waited until Tebow Time to pull off a win last week, Seattle used two big plays in less than a minute in the third quarter to separate itself from the Bears and all but kill the Bears' hopes for a playoff berth.

Someone asked a surly poet warrior Brian Urlacher what he, as team leader, said to his guys after this game.

Red Bryant
The Seahawks' defense outscored the Bears' offense 14-7.

"There's always next week, I guess," Urlacher said. "Until there's not."

Cornerback Tim Jennings, burned on Ben Obomanu's 43-yard catch that set up the Seahawks' second touchdown and began Chicago's downfall, said losing four in a row has "never been heard of."

Was he being serious? Tell him to talk to Urlacher, the patron saint of lost seasons.

"We've been a lot worse than this," Urlacher said. "I know that much."

That's a quip you didn't find in next year's media guide. It's true, though. Urlacher could compile an oral history of watching terrible offenses led by bad quarterbacks. Familiarity still doesn't make this run hurt any less.

"No, it makes me feel good," said Urlacher, his voice dripping in sarcasm. "I like doing this [bleep]. It's fun. Four in a row is great. Hell yeah, I'm mad. This is not our team. This is not how we're supposed to play. This is not how we should play. It doesn't matter who's playing quarterback, our defense has to play better. That's all there is to it."

Oh, but it does matter. The sins of the past were supposed to be erased with the arrival of Cutler in 2009, but there was no plan for his successor. Or at least not a good one.

At 7-3 this season, the Bears once again looked like legitimate contenders. But without Cutler, the offense is feckless. The past three games, the Bears' offense has scored 20 points -- two touchdowns and two field goals. They're 5-for-36 on third down in that time.

No, all that failure is not on one guy, especially with a substandard supporting cast and an injured Matt Forte. But Caleb Hanie is the quarterback and this is the NFL.

A Bears game in the short-lived, yet seemingly interminable Hanie era is like a weekend hangover -- inescapable, painful, impossible to cure with anything other than time.

As the team sinks, Cutler's reputation grows. Without him, this is a winless, hopeless team. No one wants to come out and blame Hanie, a hard worker and a good guy, but he's overmatched. He's not responsible for all four losses, but he hasn't done much to win a game, either.

Hanie completed just 10 of 23 throws for 111 yards, throwing three interceptions, two which were returned for touchdowns. One of them, a wobbly throw under pressure, traveled about 3 yards before defensive end Red Bryant caught it and went 20 yards for the score. Hanie was benched for Josh McCown, who promptly threw a pick of his own.

I'm afraid Cutler's injury might have killed Hanie's career.

"It's been tough for him," receiver Roy Williams said. "We haven't helped him. He's had his ups and his downs and it's just something he'll learn from. Best luck to him the rest of the way."

That last line sounds like the locker room equivalent of "Have a nice summer" in your yearbook. To his credit, Williams also tried to take the blame for Hanie's two picks that were conceivably targeting him. But no one was convinced.

It's a shame what happened to this team.

"Every team has injuries, some players different than others, but everyone has to overcome stuff," Urlacher said. "That's football."

And when you can't overcome, this is what happens. That's Bears football.

Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.