Reflecting on the 5 Defining Moments of the Chicago Bears' 2013 Season
A win in their final game and a playoff appearance would've qualified it as a success. A loss and finishing with an 8-8 record a year after going 10-6 qualifies it as a failure, or at least short of expectations.
The Bears became a very different team this season as their offense finished second in the league in scoring, but their defense was third-to-last, a season after finishing third overall.
Chicago had a ton of injuries that prevented it from being the kind of team it could've been. Despite that, the Bears still had a shot at the playoffs before falling short.
General manager Phil Emery has stated numerous times that his goal is for the Bears to contend for a Super Bowl every season. The Bears didn't do that this season—therefore it is defined as a failure.
This is not to say that there weren't successes in Chicago's 2013 season, and those shouldn't be ignored. Falling short of the playoffs with a veteran roster can never be deemed a successful season, however.
In most cases, I determined the 2013 Bears season was defined by heartbreaking moments. Times when we got our hopes up and expected a win only to be let down. In the end, that's what this season was, a giant letdown.
Here are five moments that ultimately defined the Chicago Bears' 2013 season.
Martellus Bennett's Game-Winner vs. Vikings
In many ways—outside of the end results—this game defined Chicago's season.
The game was back and forth with five lead changes, and it looked like the Bears were going to lose, until they didn't because of a great throw and a great catch by what turned out to be a very good duo for the team.
The Bears offense was explosive in the first half, but it struggled in the second.
The Bears defense—still healthy at this time—was bending, but not breaking. It allowed just three short Blair Walsh field goals in the second half as the Minnesota Vikings took a 30-24 lead.
Quarterback Jay Cutler moved the Bears offense down the field, including a 23-yard pass to Martellus Bennett on 1st-and-20.
Three plays later, on 3rd-and-10 from the Minnesota 16, Cutler threw to Bennett again. This time, it was a back-shoulder pass at the pylon. Bennett jumped up, made the catch and fell into the end zone for the touchdown.
Robbie Gould's extra point put the Bears ahead by one, which is what they won by.
This is one of the defining moments because it showed the players and fans that their offense can be trusted. That when they need a play, Marc Trestman could get them in a good matchup and the players could execute.
It also happened in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals, but doing it twice showed it wasn't a fluke. Although they had yet to develop consistency, the Bears finally had an offense capable of lighting up the scoreboard.
The best thing they did in this game was they didn't give the Vikings another chance. Minnesota fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and the Bears were able to take a knee.
While we learned that the Bears offense was reliable, the defense was anything but.
Roy Helu TD with 45 Seconds Left
This play and game was the ultimate "sign of things to come" of the season.
The Bears had completed an improbable comeback with Josh McCown replacing an injured Cutler, taking a 41-38 lead on a seven-yard touchdown pass to Bennett with three minutes and 57 seconds left.
While the Bears defense has already started showing signs of being untrustworthy, this was the drive that clinched it.
The Washington Redskins' ensuing drive started at their own 20. They converted three third downs, including a 10-yard pass to Jordan Reed on 3rd-and-4 down to the Bears' 3-yard line.
On the next play, they lined up in the pistol formation. Robert Griffin III handed off to Roy Helu, who started right then cut back left through a huge hole for an easy touchdown. None of the Bears linebackers filled the gap, and cornerback Zack Bowman's diving attempt wasn't even close.
This game was the start of Chicago's troubles defending the run. The Bears had given up 123 rushing yards the week before to the New York Giants, but they were without all of their defensive tackles.
This time around, they were healthy and still had no shot at stopping the Redskins, who ran for 209 yards and had 499 overall.
The Bears defense couldn't be trusted. It's what the season came down to again and again.
Alshon Jeffery's Dropped Touchdowns vs. Detroit
Perhaps the best part of the 2013 season was the emergence of second-year wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
That said, Jeffery also likely cost the Bears the playoffs with multiple bad plays, none more glaring than his dropped touchdown against the Detroit Lions.
The Bears trailed 14-7 in the third quarter against Detroit before Cutler fired a strike right into Jeffery's hands, but he wasn't able to secure what would've been an easy touchdown.
The Bears still trailed 14-10 with 9:25 left in the fourth quarter when Cutler went to Jeffery again. This time the ball was thrown in the corner of the end zone, and Jeffery got both hands on it. It was originally ruled a touchdown, but it was overturned via replay.
It would've been a tough catch, but it's one that Jeffery made somewhat regularly. He did the difficult part by getting both hands on the ball, but he failed to secure it through the process.
On both drives, the Bears had to settle for field goals, an eight-point turnaround in what ended up being a two-point loss.
Jeffery made more great plays than he did bad plays, but his bad plays ended up really costing the team.
In their Week 17 loss to the Packers, he had a fumble that put Green Bay in field-goal range and dropped a pass on 3rd-and-17 that could've clinched the win for the Bears.
As good as Jeffery may already be, there's no doubt he has a lot of room for improvement.
Robbie Gould Misses Game-Winner vs. Vikings
Robbie Gould may be one of the best kickers in the history of the league, but one big miss will haunt him all offseason.
The Bears gave Gould two chances to win the game. The first—a 66-yard attempt as time expired in regulation—wasn't very realistic. The second should've been a gimme.
After Minnesota missed a field goal, the Bears ran Matt Forte five straight times for 24 yards, setting up a 2nd-and-7 at the Minnesota 29.
Instead of trying to get closer, Coach Trestman elected to send Gould out to attempt a 47-yard field goal.
While many question Trestman's judgment on that play, the conditions were perfect, being in a dome and the ball was right in the middle of the field.
It was well within Gould's range, and it was a kick one would expect him to make—except he didn't. Gould's kick sailed wide right. The Vikings then went down the field and won the game on their next drive.
If Gould would've made the kick, the Bears would be preparing to play the San Francisco 49ers this week.
Randall Cobb Burns Them Deep
Of course, Chicago's season had to end this way.
Once again, the Bears seemed to be in prime position to win, but they fell short, this being the most heartbreaking of them all.
The Bears had the Packers in a 4th-and-8 situation. Even if they gave up the first down, the Packers still would've been outside of field-goal range with the clock against them. A stop would've put the Bears in the playoffs.
Instead, the worst possible thing happened.
The Bears drew up a blitz that nearly got home as Julius Peppers was just barely blocked by Green Bay's John Kuhn. Once Peppers was picked up, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked deep to see that safety Chris Conte had left Randall Cobb running down the field by himself.
Rodgers lofted the pass, Cobb caught it and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.
Of course, the play that essentially ended Chicago's season was a terrible defensive breakdown when it seemed the Bears had the game won. Of course, it was Conte who blew the coverage, and of course, it happened against the hated Packers.
The ultimate heartbreaker.