With Sunday's game on the line, the Bears' vaunted and suddenly old-looking defense allowed Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to lead his team 177 yards on its final two possessions, resulting in 13 points and an overtime victory.
The 23-17 loss to the visiting Seahawks, combined with another spate of injuries, may jeopardize the playoff aspirations of the 8-4 Bears, while it buoyed the hopes of the 7-5 visitors.
On an otherwise unseasonably warm and pleasant sun-splashed afternoon at Soldier Field, the loss left coach Lovie Smith as angry and disappointed in his defense as he ever has been in nine years with the team. He didn't excuse himself from blame, either.
"Terrible job I did getting our football team ready," said Smith, whose defense allowed 459 yards. "Defensively, we didn't get a lot done. We had opportunities to make some plays there late, and we didn't. Our pass rush wasn't good enough there at the end."
The Bears sacked Wilson twice but couldn't get a hand on the third-round rookie out of Wisconsin when it mattered most.
On the Seahawks' last two possessions Wilson's passes converted a third-and-4, a third-and-10 and a fourth-and-3. He ran for first downs on third-and-2 and third-and-5 in overtime.
"Third downs were terrible today for us," Smith said. "We had them in a fourth-down situation. (That's) just not the type of football that we've played around here. It's as simple as that; disappointing for all of us. Thank God we have more games to play to get this bad taste out of our mouths. We're not that bad of a football team."
That was Snmith's message to the media. His message to the team was succinct.
"He said, 'Not good enough,' which is exactly what it was," defensive end Israel Idonije said. "It wasn't good enough."
It wasn't just the Seahawks' elusive and resourceful 5-foot-11-inch quarterback who defeated the Bears, but Wilson had more to do with the outcome than anyone on the field. He rushed for 71 yards, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. He threw for 293 yards with a 104.9 passer rating.
Wilson also fired the touchdown pass that appeared to win the game 17-14 with 24 seconds left in regulation, culminating a 97-yard drive. Then, after Jay Cutler's miracle 56-yard pass to Brandon Marshall set up Robbie Gould's 46-yard field goal sent the game into overtime, Wilson also tossed the game-winning TD pass.
Wilson practically willed his team to victory with so many clutch plays down the stretch that it will be painful for defensive players to watch today in film review.
Many of those same defensive players are certain to be cringing at the inordinate number of missed tackles that allowed the Seahawks extra yards after contact and helped them convert 8 of 15 third-down plays.
"Things that usually don't happen to us, happened (Sunday)," said cornerback Kelvin Hayden. "It was just a couple times coverage breaking down, and (Wilson) getting outside the pocket and extending plays."
Hayden and safety Major Wright both missed tackles that would have kept Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate out of the end zone on his 14-yard TD catch in the final seconds of regulation. On the previous play Sidney Rice was wide open for a 27-yard reception after Wilson bought time in the pocket.
"At the end of the day, you have to make those plays," Idonije said. "That's the difference between winning and losing."
On the opening possession of overtime, Wilson was 4-for-4 for 49 yards and ran twice for 17 yards, as cornerback Tim Jennings (shoulder) and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring) left the field and did not return. Wilson appeared to be moving at a much faster pace than any of the Bears' defenders.
Players claimed fatigue wasn't a factor, and coach Smith said if it was, the defense was at fault for failing to stop the Seahawks.
"Fatigue plays in when you don't get off the field on third down," Smith said. "And then you don't get off on fourth down. You have to be able to reach down. That's what we've done in those situations is to make a play to get off the field."
However, the 32-year-old Idonije demurred.
"You have to find a way to step up and make those plays, period." Idonije said. "I don't care if it's overtime, second overtime, whatever it may be. This is what we do."
Or, in this case, what they didn't do.