The Chicago Bears have failed to reach the postseason in 2012 and it has cost Lovie Smith his head coaching job. Today and tomorrow I’ll present my ten definitive factors/moments/developments of the 2012 campaign. They are the reasons the Bears succeeded and – perhaps more important – failed over the course of this roller coaster campaign.
#10 Six INT TDs in Five Weeks
To quote a Larry Mayer: “Not only has the unit broke a franchise record by returning six interceptions for touchdowns, it set the mark in a five-game span—in wins over the Rams, Cowboys, Jaguars, Lions and Panthers.” The Bears were not just one of the best defenses in the league in 2012; they were the best scoring defense perhaps in the sport’s history. They lit up the scoreboard for five weeks and ushered the Bears to an exhilarating 7-1 start.
#9 Disappearance of Devin Hester
Many Bears fans have grown accustomed to expecting the same thing each and every Sunday: Devin Hester returning kicks for a touchdowns. We’ve become so accustomed to The Skunk streaking through the end zone that it made no sense to expect anything else. Hester not only failed to score but he looked tentative with punts in the air, made poor decisions throughout the year and failed to show the burst on kickoffs he’d patented in the past. (You can also add that Adam Podlesh’s miserable first half contributed to an off year for Dave Toub’s normally stellar special teams units.) The Bears had one of the game’s great edges. They lost it in 2012.
Brian Urlacher was non-existent for most of the season. Robbie Gould couldn’t walk during the pivotal Minnesota game. Alshon Jeffery missed half the season and stunted the development of what looks to be a dynamic wide receiver. Matt Forte had bad ankles. Lance Louis, the Bears’ only reliable lineman, went down with an ugly looking knee injury. Jay Cutler, Earl Bennett, Devin Hester and Shea McClellin each missed time with concussions. Injuries weren’t to blame for the Bears missing the playoffs but they were a defining factor over the second half of the year.
#7 Adrian Peterson Joined the RB Rushmore
The Bears would be preparing for a postseason tilt at San Francisco this week except for one factor: Adrian Peterson. Nobody believed the Vikings were capable of surviving a two-game stretch at Houston in Week 16 and home to Green Bay in Week 17 undefeated. Not only did they survive but they blew out the Texans on the road and Peterson single-handedly tore through the Packers defense to the tune of 200 yards. If Peterson does not return from ACL surgery and deliver the most rousing rushing season in NFL history, the Bears might have entered the final week of the season preparing to rest their starters for wild card weekend.
#6 Packer Weak
When Lovie Smith joined the Bears he made beating the Green Bay Packers his priority and early in his tenure was successful. For the past three seasons the Bears have looked out-manned and out-coached every Sunday the two rivals have met. In order to beat the modern Packers the opposing offense must score points because Rodgers and company don’t make many mistakes and don’t turn the ball over frequently – two things a Lovie defense capitalizes on. The next coach must be able to walk up to Lambeau and post 30 with long, well-executed offensive drives. As Emery said in his press conference, it comes down to having more playmakers than the other guys. When the Bears have met the Packers in recent years the Packers have won that battle.