Losses by both the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon put the Chicago Bears' playoff chances squarely in their own hands, needing a victory on Sunday Night Football to shore up the NFC North crown.
Despite having the opportunity in front of them, the Bears failed to grab it and lost 54-11 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The loss dropped the Bears to 8-7 on the year, and they will now host the Green Bay Packers this coming Sunday afternoon with the winner taking the NFC North title and moving on to the playoffs.
Here are my five takeaways from the Bears' 54-11 loss against the Philadelphia Eagles.
After the Bears surprisingly elected to receive the ball to start the game, the offense sputtered on its first drive to surrender a three-and-out, the defense got gashed on the Eagles' first possession that led to a touchdown and Devin Hester fumbled the subsequent kickoff that eventually resulted in a touchdown.
Not the best way to start a game.
The Eagles virtually had nothing to play for, considering the Dallas Cowboys' victory earlier in the day made the two teams' Week 17 matchup an NFC East title game, yet they took advantage of Chicago's early mistakes.
Hester's lost fumble was his first since Week 7 in 2009 against the Cincinnati Bengals. While it is hard to not also place some blame on the offense, it is never easy when you are placed in a 14-point (eventually 21-point) hole to start the game.
Slow starts have doomed the Bears this season, and they cannot afford another one this coming Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
One of the more pleasant surprises this season has been the overall improved play along the offensive line for the Bears. The additions of Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills have paid dividends in the steady progression of this offense.
Despite being improved, the offensive line has still struggled at times this season, and Sunday was one of the worst this season.
Jay Cutler was sacked five times and was getting pressured for the majority of the night. Mills had arguably one of his worst performances of the season, and center Roberto Garza continued to struggle with low snaps.
Compared to last season, the offensive line is vastly improved, but Sunday night it proved it is still a work in progress.
Not even the return of Lance Briggs could lend any help to the worst run defense in the league on Sunday night, and the Eagles walked away with 289 yards on the ground off of just 36 carries.
Marc Trestman told CBS Chicago's Adam Hoge after the game, "We'll throw this tape in the trash can."
LeSean McCoy led the way for the Eagles, racking up 133 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries while backup Bryce Brown was not far behind, rushing for 115 yards yards on nine carries, including a 65-yard touchdown run near the end of the game.
These sort of games from opposing offenses on the ground have become the norm for a Bears defense that had statistically been one of the best in the league for the past decade.
Gap discipline, missed tackles and lack of execution have all played a part in their poor performance this season, but they will get at least one more shot this Sunday to try to right the ship.
The defense struggled against the run (again), and the offense sputtered when needed most. Throughout the game it became increasingly harder to find any sort of positives on either side of the football.
Due to the team needing to play catch-up because of its slow start, Matt Forte was limited to just nine carries on the night for 29 yards, and despite scoring a touchdown, Brandon Marshall had just 36 yards on four catches.
The struggles of the defense were highlighted earlier, and even though they were able to sack Nick Foles twice on Sunday night, they were more a product of poor judgement or a poorly executed play by Foles.
For a team fighting for a playoff berth, the Bears looked far from it Sunday night and will need to find some positives on both sides of the ball this Sunday against the Packers.
Despite their loss on Sunday night, the Chicago Bears still control their own destiny if they can knock off the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field this Sunday.
The Bears and Packers have the longest-running rivalry in the NFL dating back to 1921. The teams have combined to win 22 league championships and have a combined 48 members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Packers have gotten the best of the Bears as of late, winning eight of the past 11 meetings, including their win over Chicago in the NFC Championship Game in 2011, but the Bears defeated the Packers on Monday Night Football back in November.
Sunday will be a big game for Cutler and for Trestman, and both will have to prove that they are up to the task.