2011 was filled with ups and downs for the Chicago Bears but mostly down. They made their third trip to the postseason under Lovie Smith, ending in a loss to the Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the end of the 2010 season while the 2011 season was derailed by injuries.
After a long and contentious lockout, the Bears started off the 2011 campaign with a shaky 2-3 start. The home opener versus the Falcons filled fans with high hopes before consecutive losses to the Saints and Packers brought everyone back down to Earth. Similar problems plagued Jay Cutler and the Bears offense – pass protection breakdowns caused the offense to sputter until another re-boot of the offense after a humbling Monday Night Football loss to the surging Detroit Lions.
Despite a very public contract negotiation, Matt Forte got off to his best start as a Chicago Bear. He led the offense in receiving and even though an injury sidelined him in Week 13, he is still among the NFL leaders in total yards from scrimmage.
Let’s look at the highlights and lowlights of the 2011 year after the jump.
- Third playoff victory under Lovie Smith, beating the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Round.
- Drafted Gabe Carimi, Stephen Paea, Chris Conte, Nathan Enderle and J.T. Thomas.
- Home opening 30-12 win versus Atlanta Falcons.
- Five game winning streak starting with a 24-18 win over the Bucs in London and capped off with a 31-20 win over the Chargers.
- Emergence of Jay Cutler as the leader of the Bears offense.
- Matt Forte’s all-purpose offensive game.
- First time trips to the Pro Bowl for Charles Tillman, Corey Graham and Matt Forte.
- Return trips to the Pro Bowl for Brian Urlacher (8th) and Lance Briggs (7th).
- Devin Hester sets all time mark for kick return touchdowns.
- Bears lose the 2010 season finale on January 2nd 10-3 to the Green Bay Packers, who needed to win the game to get into the playoffs.
- Jay Cutler injured in NFC Championship Game, where the Bears go on to lose to the Packers.
- Greg Olsen traded to the Carolina Panthers for a third round pick. It’s another failed Jerry Angelo draft pick.
- Matt Forte’s contract negotiations turn sour and no extension is reached. It appears that he will be franchise tagged.
- Gabe Carimi injured in Week 2 and never returns. Two knee surgeries follow.
- A humbling 24-13 loss to the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. It looks like it’s rock bottom for the Bears.
- During a 31-20 win over the Chargers, Jay Cutler breaks his thumb. Even though the Bears were 7-3 at the time and had a soft part of the schedule coming up, they couldn’t recover offensively.
- Their current 5 game losing streak marred by the horrible performances by backup quarterback Caleb Hanie.
- Marion Barber’s gaffes in Denver allow the Bears to get Tebow-ed in a 10-3 overtime loss to the Broncos.
- 4 losses to the Green Bay Packers in one calendar year.
- The Sam Hurd wanna-be kingpin drug bust.
- Bears miss the playoffs for the fourth time in five years under Lovie Smith.
In the end, it was the pair of injuries to Jay Cutler that bookended and defined the year, which will be remembered as another unsuccessful one for the Lovie Smith and Jerry Angelo regimes.
What did I miss? What were your personal highlights and lowlights of 2011?