PHILADELPHIA -- A stunning turn of events earlier in the day left the Bears needing only to defeat the Eagles on Sunday night to clinch the NFC North title and a playoff berth.
In late afternoon games, the Lions lost in overtime as 10-point favorites to the Giants; while the Packers squandered a final shot to tie their home game against the Steelers when they got within a yard of a game-tying touchdown.
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The Eagles, by comparison, had less to play for, knowing they still need to defeat the Cowboys in the season finale to claim the NFC East title.
"We knew what was at stake and the opportunity we had," Bears coach Marc Trestman said.
But, handed a golden opportunity, the Bears proceeded to trip over it, fumble it and fritter it away in an embarrassing 54-11 defeat. It was the second-most points allowed in franchise history.
The good news is the Bears are still in the playoffs if they can defeat the 7-7-1 Packers at Soldier Field next Sunday. Based on the way both teams played in Week 16, though, neither may be deserving of the postseason -- especially the 8-7 Bears.
"I don't think we're going to look at this tape much," quarterback Jay Cutler said after being sacked a season-high five times. "We got beat down. To study it would be a waste of time. Guys just have to regroup. There's nothing that says we can't bounce back next week."
As anyone who's been paying attention knows, the Bears' defense is deficient. A run defense that seemingly couldn't get worse, did, allowing a season-worst 289 yards on the ground. The return of seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs didn't help against the Eagles. But the really demoralizing development was that the offense was almost as bad as the defense.
After a triumphant return from injury last week, Cutler and the offense took a gigantic step back in nationally televised blowout. It surely will cause some to wonder whether McCown could have played more effectively. But, in fairness to Cutler (20 of 35, 222 yards, TD, INT) this loss was a total disaster in all three phases of the game. The Bears rushed for just 61 yards, their second-lowest output this season.
"I thought we were ready, but we played a terrible game, terrible in all three phases," Trestman said. "The game got away from us. We lost the line of scrimmage on both sides. We couldn't get any runs started, and we couldn't stop the run."
It's been a frequent occurrence for the Bears to struggle on defense. But the team's strength -- and any hopes of playoff success it may have harbored -- were based on an explosive offense.
Sunday night that offense was a dud.
Only Robbie Gould's 50-yard field goal as time expired kept the Bears from being shut out in the first half. Of the Bears' 29 plays in the first half, 14 resulted in no gain or a loss of yardage.
"When they score, we have to score," said offensive left tackle Jermon Bushrod. "We work too hard to have a score like that. By the time we had a little success, it was 21-0."
Maybe the greatest humiliation for the offense was when it was backed up to its own 2-yard line early in the third quarter. Running back Matt Forte, tripped up behind the line of scrimmage, couldn't get out of the end zone, giving the Eagles a safety and a 26-3 lead. After the Bears' free kick, it soon became 33-3 with 7:11 left in the third quarter.
A pick-6 of Cutler by Brandon Boykin, who went 54 yards for the score, was the final offensive indignity midway through the fourth quarter, swelling the lead to 47-11. At that point the Bears sent McCown in to mop up the mess.
The Bears know if they put this one quickly in the rear view mirror and regroup they can join the postseason party.
"We'll throw this tape in the trash can," Trestman said. "I know they're going to come in (Wednesday) excited to play Green Bay. Seasons are full of disappointments. This is extremely disappointing, but that has to go away, and we have to re-energize."
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