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When the Chicago Bears had to turn to backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, replacing the injured Jay Cutler for perhaps the remainder of the regular season, the team's playoff hopes were not yet in serious jeopardy.
As long as the team employed a more conservative offense, keeping passes short and the offense on the ground behind workhorse running back Matt Forte (and supplemented by goal-line bruiser Marion Barber), they appeared able to maintain their positioning in the NFC and secure a wildcard postseason berth, potentially in time for Cutler to return.
But now, things have gotten much more grim for Chicago, with Forte suffering an MCL injury in the team's embarrassing 10-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 13.
If the diagnosis stands, Forte should be out two to four weeks. If it is the full four, that means the season will be over by the time he's ready to take the field, but by that point his team may not be playing football in January.
Hanie has been in trouble the two games he's started for Chicago, completing just 50 percent of his passes in Week 12 while throwing two scores and three interceptions, and having a dismal 45.8 completion percentage in the team's most-recent loss.
Against the Chiefs, Hanie threw for just 133 yards and was picked three times. Forte himself managed only 12 yards on the ground before suffering the injury, and the Bears as a whole had just 188 total yards of offense to their names.
With the Bears' strong defense not even enough to make up for their offense's shortcomings, Hanie has found himself the engineer of a late-season meltdown and not a triumphant playoff run.