Best Moments of the Bears' 2011-12 Season
In fact, up until the point where Cutler went down for the count, the Bears had a record of 7-3 and were seemingly on their way toward a wild-card berth.
Now, that never materialized, of course. But we shouldn't let that discourage us from reliving some of the best moments from the 2011 season.
So let's allow ourselves the one final opportunity to go back in time and consider what could have been.
The journey's free, so come along for the ride.
Devin Hester Sets All-Time Return Record
Devin Hester you are RIDICULOUS!
The season ended poorly for Devin Hester just as it did for the Chicago Bears. Hester was hurt for much of the last six games or so and just couldn't do much of anything.
But earlier in the season he was a one man wrecking crew.
On Oct. 2, Hester surpassed Eric Metcalf to became the all-time leader in punt return touchdowns (11) when he returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown against the Panthers.
Two weeks later he returned a kickoff for a 98-yard TD against the Vikings.
Then, on Nov. 13, Hester returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown against the Detroit Lions.
Among Hester's NFL records includes the following feats:
Devin Hester, you are indeed RIDICULOUS! (Um, but not as a wide receiver).
Bears Win Season Opener in Dominating Fashion
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Bears opened the season with a dominant performance at home, beating the Atlanta Falcons 30-12 behind a great performance by QB Jay Cutler and a stifling defense.
Cutler was terrific, throwing for 312 yards and two TDs, posting a 107.8 passer rating.
Matt Forte gave a glimpse of just how good he was going to be by rushing for 68 yards on 16 carries and taking a screen pass from Cutler and turning it into a 56-yard TD reception.
Meanwhile, the defense was spectacular also, as it took the ball away three times and scored a TD on Brian Urlacher's 12-yard fumble return.
But perhaps the best thing the defense did was to display a pass rush that many people were wondering even existed. They sacked Matt Ryan five times after not sacking him at all in two previous games.
They held the Falcons offense without a touchdown. The win gave fans lots of hope and quieted some of the concern form the preseason.
Bears Score TDs in All Three Phases in Defeating Carolina
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Despite being so early in the season, the Bears faced a must-win situation at home against the Panthers in Week 4. Both the Lions and Packers were undefeated, and the Bears knew they simply couldn't fall to 1-3.
But they responded in a big way, scoring a TD on offense, defense and special teams in beating Carolina 34-29.
Forte had a huge day for the Bears, rushing for 205 yards to bring the Bears back to .500 on the season at 2-2.
Devin Hester delivered two huge plays on special teams, returning a punt 69 yards for a touchdown and bringing back a kickoff 73 yards to set up Forte’s 17-yard TD run.
Meanwhile, the Bears defense yielded 543 total yards and failed to record a sack, but scored its second touchdown of the season when D.J. Moore picked off a Cam Newton pass and returned it 20 yards late in the first quarter.
The Bears won despite Cutler completing just 9-of- 17 passes for 102 yards with one interception and a 46.7 passer rating.
Bears Even Record again with Easy Win over Vikings
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Following a loss to the Lions on Monday night, the Bears found themselves once again in a must-win situation. At 2-3, their season would be all but over if they lost, especially with the Lions and Packers still undefeated.
The Bears responded in a big way, once again scoring on offense, defense and special teams in an impressive 39-10 victory.
Meanwhile, Chicago got back to .500 at 3-3, and Cutler completed 21-of-31 passes for 267 yards with two touchdowns and a 115.9 passer rating—while being sacked only once.
Hester scored another TD when he returned a kick 98 yards in the third quarter, increasing his NFL record for combined kick return TDs to 16.
The defense had five sacks and limited Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to 39 yards on 12 carries, his lowest output in eight career games against the Bears.
Cheerio—Bears Win Consecutive Games for First Time in London Victory
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The Bears won back-to-back games for the first time this season by beating the Tampa Bay Bucs 24-18 at Wembley Stadium.
They almost blew a 16-point lead, but narrowly hung on to improve their record to 4-3. D.J. Moore recorded the defense's fourth and final interception of the game when he picked off a pass at the Bears 25 with just :27 to play.
Chicago climbed to within one game of second place in the division behind the Lions (5-2), who lost to the Atlanta Falcons.
Matt Forte delivered another spectacular performance, rushing for 78 of his game-high 145 yards in the first quarter.
Urlacher had one of the Bears' interceptions on the day. Hey, even a streaker got in on the act. Who says the Brits don't know how to have fun?
Bears Come from Behind to Beat the Eagles on Monday Night
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
The Bears continued to roll, winning their third consecutive game on a Monday night in Philadelphia, scoring the final 13 points on their way to a 30-24 win.
With the victory, the Bears solidified themselves as legitimate contenders, as they moved to 5-3 on the season. More importantly, the Bears tied Atlanta for the second and final NFC wild-card spot, one game behind the Lions (6-2).
Amazingly, Cutler was not sacked for just the second time in 39 career games with the Bears.
Meanwhile, Forte had another big game with 133 yards rushing, but he fumbled twice. It was his first fumble since Oct. 24, 2010.
Bears Clobber the Lions for Fourth Straight Victory
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
It was another ridiculous performance by Hester and a spectacular job by the Bears in a 37-13 rout of Detroit at Soldier Field.
Hester brought back a punt 82 yards for a touchdown, and the defense generated six takeaways and two TDs. With the score, Hester extended his NFL record for combined kick return TDs to 17.
With the win, the Bears (6-3) tied the Lions (6-3) for second place in the NFC North. At this point, the Lions seemed on their way out the door while the Bears were poised to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Major Wright and Charles Tillman returned interceptions for TDs. It was Wright's first NFL TD.
Bears Win Fifth Consecutive Game
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The good news was that the Bears won their fifth in a row by beating the Chargers 31-20. They improved to 7-3 on the season and well on their way to the playoffs.
The offense was rolling behind Cutler, who passed for two TDs and ran for another. He also avoided being sacked by moving well within the pocket.
But then disaster struck, although the team didn't know it until after the game. Johnny Knox slipped on a slant route, and Cutler was intercepted.
Cutler saved a touchdown, hustling downfield to slow up the defender. But in the process, he fractured his right thumb. His season was over.
I hate to include such a bummer on a slide that was intended to be positive, but it is what it is. The Bears did win the game, and they didn't realize the severity of the injury until later. Lovie Smith never mentioned it in his post-game remarks.
In fact, if you listen to the postgame you will hear him say that they came away "in good shape."