The NFC North division crown and a trip to the playoffs were laid out before them, but the Chicago Bears could not capitalize and lost to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 33-28 on Sunday afternoon.
The offense sputtered in the first half but was able to stay in check due to the defense. Unfortunately in the second half, the Packers ran for 98 yards and scored the eventually game-winning touchdown on 4th-and-long with just 38 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Head coach Marc Trestman told Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune after the game, "I'm very disappointed for our players and for our fans. I'm proud of the effort they gave today."
The Packers move on to the playoffs and will host a game at Lambeau Field this coming weekend, while the Bears have been sent packing for the offseason.
Here are my takeaways from the Bears' 33-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Quarterback Jay Cutler entered Sunday's contest against the Green Bay Packers with a 1-7 career record against them during his time with the Chicago Bears.
In those previous eight starts against the Packers, Cutler had thrown eight touchdowns to a staggering 17 interceptions, including two games in which he threw four interceptions.
He was not able to come away with victory, but he took a step forward, playing his best game against the Packers, passing for 226 yards with two touchdowns, one interception (thrown on a Hail Mary to end the game) and finished with 103.8 quarterback rating.
Some may argue that he did not do enough to put his team in a position to win, but considering how abysmal the defense was in the second half, he did all he could.
The Bears face a difficult decision moving forward on whether or not to bring Cutler back to Chicago, but according CBS Chicago's Zach Zaidman, Cutler said after that game that he would like to remain with the team.
The Bears run defense has been statistically the worst in the league this season, and despite holding Eddie Lacy to 66 yards on 21 carries, James Starks gashed the defense for 88 yards on 11 carries.
The Bears forced two turnovers from a rusty Aaron Rodgers early on but failed to slow him down when needed most.
With 38 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Rodgers hit a wide-open Randall Cobb on a 48-yard touchdown pass. Miscommunication and a lack of pressure led to the perfect throw and catch that ultimately ended the Bears' season.
Heading into Sunday, the Bears were allowing on average 161.4 yards per game on the ground, dead last in the NFL. The next closest team, the Atlanta Falcons, gave up nearly 30 yards less with 135.8 yards per game.
While the Bears defense initially looked better against the run, the combination of Lacy and Starks ran through the Bears for 160 yards.
Poor gap integrity and bad tackling have plagued the Bears run defense all season long, and it did so again on Sunday afternoon. The Bears will likely make an abundance of moves to help improve the defensive side of the ball, and the starting 11 players who were on the field Sunday afternoon will likely not look anything like the 11 who will take the field in Week 1 of the 2014 season.
Sunday was no different, and Forte had one of his best games running the ball this season. He finished with 110 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns and was effectively getting himself to the edge and into open space.
Forte has thrived in Trestman's West Coast system and finished with 1,339 yards rushing with nine touchdowns and caught 74 passes for 594 yards, all career highs.
The shelf life for NFL running backs has drastically declined, but Forte has proved that he can get better with age and will head into the offseason on the right foot.
While the defense has rightfully gotten much of the blame this season for the Bears, Chris Conte has been one of the focal points for Bears fans' displeasure.
During the crucial 4th-and-8 situation that the Packers were able to convert and score a touchdown on a 48-yard touchdown pass to Cobb from Rodgers, Conte once again was viewed as the goat.
Conte simply stopped at the first-down marker, unaware of Cobb streaking past him. The play was the perfect summation of Conte's terrible season. He did intercept Rodgers in the end zone earlier in the game, but much like he has all season long, he was caught playing out of position many times Sunday afternoon.
Coaches and fans can live with minor mistakes here and there, but Conte failed to progress this season and left the locker room after Sunday's game before talking to the media.
Heading into Sunday's game, more than 25 players on the Bears' roster are set to become free agents, meaning the team we saw on the field on Sunday could be drastically different than the one we see on the field next September.
Phil Emery initially stated that the team was unwilling to sign any deals during the season, but the team agreed to terms with Robbie Gould on a four-year extension late last week.
Gould admitted to taking a more team-friendly deal to help the team in the long term, telling the Chicago Sun-Times' Adam Jahns, “You’ve got guys – Jay Cutler, Devin Hester, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, James Anderson – you’ve got guys that are up [for new contracts], that if the deal we’ve struck gives a little extra money to keep guys around, then I’m all for it.”
The Bears may need some of the extra money if they want to sign Cutler to a long-term deal and also add to their struggling defense via free agency, but one thing is for sure: That locker room will look very different next season.