Last week I ranked the five most embarrassing, soul-crushing losses from 1986-2000. This week I have ranked the four worst losses from 2000 until now.
4) January 15, 2006. NFC Divisional Round game. Chicago Bears vs. Carolina Panthers.
It was supposed to be the moment where the Bears broke their curse of losing in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Since winning the Super Bowl in 1985, Chicago fell in this round in 1986, 1987, 1990, 1994, and 2001.
The last time the Bears won a Divisional Round game up to this point was the 1988 Fog Bowl against the Eagles. But the contest turned out to be little more than the Steve Smith show. The Carolina receiver caught 12 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 29-21 Panther victory. Once again, the Bears lost in the Divisional Round, and once again they lost at home.
3) January 19, 2002. NFC Divisional Round game. Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles.
It was supposed to be the continuation of a magical season, where everything bounced the Bears’ way. Who could forget those miraculous come-from-behind overtime wins against San Francisco and Cleveland with safety Mike Brown returning interceptions for game-winning touchdowns? The Bears had five comeback wins during the regular season and finished 13-3, something few experts predicted the Jim Miller-led Bears could accomplish in the offseason. It was the franchise’s first division crown since 1990 and the first playoff appearance since 1995.
The Bears entered the playoffs with the top defense, allowing a league-low 203 points. But someone forgot to tell Chicago-native Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles how “good” the Bears’ defense was. McNabb threw for 262 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a rushing touchdown in the 33-19 Philly victory. The Bears took a 14-13 lead on a Jerry Azumah 39-yard interception return for a touchdown, and then looked on helplessly as McNabb took the game over from there. The Mount Carmel product found Duce Staley on a 6-yard TD pass with 5:55 left in the third to give the Eagles the 20-14 lead.
After both teams exchanged a handful of field goals, McNabb iced the game with a 5-yard scoring run with 3:21 remaining in the fourth quarter. It was the last game ever played at the “old” Soldier Field as the stadium closed for renovations the following season and all home games were played down at the University of Illinois.
2) January 23, 2011. NFC Championship game. Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers.
It was supposed to be the ultimate rivalry game. Never had the Bears and Packers met with so much at stake. The oldest rivalry in the game, the last time the two teams met in the playoffs was in 1941, with the Bears winning 33-14. But one of the most hyped events in Chicago sports history will forever be reduced to, at least in these parts, as the Jay Cutler Game. With time running out in the first half and the Bears trailing 14-0, Cutler threw an interception to Sam Shields and was injured on the play.
He played a few downs early in the third quarter but ended up sitting out the rest of the game. Players who were watching the game from home criticized Cutler via social media for not returning. The legend of Jay Cutler was born that day. Before January 23, 2011, Cutler was seen as the savior of a franchise that had starved for an elite quarterback for generations. After January 23, 2011, Cutler became the Cutler we know and hate today.
On a side note, the Packers won 21-14 and would claim their 13th championship a few weeks later. The Bears haven’t been back to the playoffs since.
1)February 4, 2007. Super Bowl. Chicago Bears vs. Indianapolis Colts.
It was supposed to be the awakening of the echoes of 1985. The Bears were going to erase years of near-misses and “what ifs” and “should haves” by capturing the franchise’s second Super Bowl title and ninth championship. The Monsters of the Midway won their first Divisional Roundcgame since 1988 by edging out the Seahawks 27-24 and captured their first NFC crown since 1985 by knocking off the Saints in convincing fashion, 39-14.
The weather in Miami called for rain, which favored the get-off-the-bus-running Bears over the pass-happy in the comfortable confines of a Dome Colts. Then Devin Hester, the greatest kick returner in the history of the game brought the opening kickoff back 92 yards for a touchdown. This was going to be easier than that game against the Patriots in 1986 in New Orleans. And then it was over. In retrospect, the Bears never really had a chance to win this game for the simple reason that it was Peyton Manning vs. Rex Grossman.
Let me repeat that…Peyton Manning vs. Rex Grossman. Even though the final score ended up being a respectable 29-17, the Colts dominated most of the game. Indy had 24 first downs, the Bears 11. The Colts were 8-14 on third down, the Bears were 3-10. The Colts outrushed the Bears 191 yards to 111yards and out passed the Bears 239 yards to 154 yards. Time of possession was overwhelmingly in favor of Indianapolis, 38:04 to 21:56. Oh yeah, and there were those five pesky turnovers committed by Chicago, they didn’t help much either.