The end of 2010 is here and the Bears are headed to the playoffs. There weren’t too many people that gave them a chance at making the playoffs this year especially since there was a new offense that needed to be learned and there were holes all over the team, or so we thought. Their preseason was scary and after seeing how well (or not so well) the offensive line did during the preseason, not too many people felt that the Bears would see much if any success.
The first half of the season was good in some respects and bad in others. Just prior to the bye week, the Bears lost games to the Redskins and Seahawks and things had started to look bleak for the Bears.
Following the bye week, Chicago picked things up on offense and reeled off five straight wins along with positioning themselves for the playoffs. They clinched the NFC North with a win over the Vikings on Monday night and are still fighting for the proper seeding to ensure a bye week and a home game at the least.
So now, with the season coming to an end, we are going to look at the best and the worst of the Bears over the past season. Sit back and read what I feel is the best and worst of the Bears.
Best Offensive Play of the Year
The best offensive play of the year for the Bears came against the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium in their second meeting of the season. As running back Matt Forte was running down the field he was turned around and twisted by several Vikings defenders but, while going backwards, he kept on driving his legs and ended up putting the ball right on the Vikings doorstep (by their own end zone). That was a great play and one that defines how things have gone for the Bears on offense this season.
Best Defensive Play of the Year
We all know what Julius Peppers has meant to the Bears defense this season and he has come through time and again this season. The best defensive play of the season was a product of Peppers. It came when he tipped and intercepted a pass in their game against the Carolina Panthers. Peppers showed everyone that he is a great athlete and a playmaker and even though the play may not have amounted to much (in terms of being a game-changer) it was still indicative of the kind of season the defense has had.
Best Special Teams Play of the Year
This is obvious. The record-breaking return that Devin Hester had in the second Vikings game was not only a back-breaker in that game but it also gave Hester what he so well deserved. Now let’s see how many more returns he adds to his record-breaking total as he continues on with his NFL career.
Worst Offensive Play of the Year
There were several during the first half the season but nothing epitomizes the struggles that the Bears had before the bye week more than Jay Cutler’s pass intercepted by Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall and returned for a touchdown in their game against the Redskins. After that, things did seem to get better for the Bears offense, particularly in their passing game.
Worst Defensive Play of the Year
In the Bears' second game against the Detroit Lions, in the first half, the Lions set up a running play for running back Jahvid Best. Best started out his run, got lost in the mass of humanity at the line of scrimmage and then squirted out peeling off a 45-yard run. After that, the Lions scored a touchdown but the Bears still won the game.
Worst Special Teams Play of the Year
You might be thinking it’s hard to find a single special teams play that was bad but yes there was one in particular that really sticks out and it’s not a missed field goal or a kickoff that rolled out of bounds. Remember back when the Bears played the Dallas Cowboys in the second week of the season and the special teams coverage units allowed rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant to return a punt 62 yards for a score? Luckily the Bears were able to win that game but the mistake shook the special teams coverage units and even though they haven’t allowed another return for a touchdown (they almost had one again when New England played them a couple weeks ago but a penalty called it back).
Comeback Player of the Year
Jay Cutler has earned a lot of honors in these awards stories but he won’t get this one this time. The Comeback Player of the Year for the Bears is Devin Hester. After not having a return for a touchdown for over two seasons, Hester has come back into the fold big time this year and finally, after what seemed like forever, he broke the all-time return for touchdown record and has plenty of time to add on to his record total. It’s nice to see Hester back to his old self and it’s helping the Bears win games.
Game of the Year
The Bears have played some good games this year but their second game against the Minnesota Vikings had to be the best of the year. You saw the record-breaking punt return by Devin Hester, you got to see the big sack (on Brett Favre) by Corey Wootton as well as some great defense. The game was played at an alternate site in less than perfect conditions and the Bears ran all over their division rival. What a nice game.
Best Unit on the Team
Breaking it down into individual units, the Bears linebackers did the best job of any other unit on the team this season. A big reason why this is so is because of the return of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher, missing almost all of last season, came back this year refreshed and healthy so he was ready to go. Lance Briggs slipped a little bit in terms of his play but he was still spot-on and Pisa Tinoisamoa, when healthy, was very good.
Worst Unit on the Team
This one comes with a disclaimer because this unit is getting better. The offensive line started off the year looking more like a sieve rather than an NFL offensive line. The low point came in the Giants game when Cutler was sacked nine times and ended up suffering a concussion (forcing him out of their next game against the Carolina Panthers). This unit has allowed an NFL-high 50 sacks so far this season and is lucky that the quarterback is still upright and walking.
Worst Injury of the Year
The Bears haven’t had too many bad injuries this season but there was one to start the year that did take a little bit out of the team. Linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer suffered a concussion in the preseason and was put on injured reserve early on and hasn’t contributed this season. Granted, the Bears have had a lot of success without him but still, having him in the lineup may have helped.
Best Offseason Move
This one is obvious. The signing of defensive end Julius Peppers really made the Bears defense better and it’s obvious that his presence has helped the Bears win games. He was selected to the Pro Bowl certifying that his signing by the Bears was the right move and that he was well worth the money that they spent on him.
Worst Offseason Move
The signing of tight end Brandon Manumaleuna appears now to be a pretty good waste of money. The Bears brought him in to be a blocking tight end and his failure in doing that is undeniable. Yes, he has caught a touchdown pass but the Bears could have used someone who was a better blocker and could have helped keep Cutler off of the ground a few more times this season.