After a disappointing 2011 season there was a big “what if” after the Bears fell from 7-3 to 8-8 because in those last 6 games the Bears lost Jay Cutler and Matt Forte to injuries. So, going into the 2012 season with a healthy Jay Cutler there were Superbowl-or-bust expectations after making big offensive moves like acquiring Brandon Marshall & Michael Bush, getting a new offensive coordinator, giving Matt Forte a contract extension, and drafting Alshon Jeffrey. New general manager Phil Emery gave the Chicago Bears fan base hope in a way that have never had before because the offense was finally going to be explosive.
The 2012 season started off great with the Bears going 7-1 and at won point going on a 6 game winning streak until the Houston Texans came to Soldier Field and concussed Jay Cutler at the end of the first half causing Cutler to miss the next game in San Francisco against the 49ers, the Bears lost both games putting them at 7-3. Nothing says irony quite like the Bears starting off 7-3 in two consecutive seasons and not being able to make it to the playoffs. The Bears never quite bounced back from those back-to-back losses to the 49ers and the Texans so they went 3-3 in the last 6 games of the season instead of 1-5 like they did in 2011. The Bears still had a shot of making the playoffs if the beat the Detroit Lions and if the Green Bay Packers beat the Minnesota Vikings, the Bears beat the Lions but the Vikings ran over the Packers and ended the Bears’ season.
The highlights of the 2012 season were Brandon Marshall and the defense. Brandon Marshall was the only thing consistent on offense, he shattered the Bears regular season record for most receiving yards by acquiring 1,508 yards from 118 receptions. Jay Cutler did not quite record the numbers that he was expected to but I do not but the blame on him because Alshon Jeffrey and Earl Bennett battled with injuries all season, Devin Hester never showed up, Kellen Davis is a terrible tight end, and the Bears offensive line might as well be invisible. I believe Jay Cutler can be an elite quarterback, not in the same lane as Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees but I definitely know with a better offensive coordinator and a strong offensive line Jay Cutler can easily be better than Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan. That offensive line is just down right atrocious, hopefully in the off-season Emery and company take a long, hard look at improving that offensive line and adding a tight end that can catch.
The Bears defense played out of their minds this year despite all of the criticism in the off-season that this defense was “getting old”. Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers, and Brian Urlacher are the core of this defense and are all north of 30 but Tillman and Briggs probably played their year in 2012 by both separately catching multiple interceptions and running them back for touchdowns. Charles Tillman was put under a national spotlight for his ability to force fumbles with his “Peanut punch”, where he literally punches the ball out of the offensive players hands.Even with the great year that Briggs and Tillman had they both fell short of having the year that Tim Jennings had a phenomenal season recording a touchdown, 9 interception, and 60 tackles. As great as this defense played in 2012 it ended with a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth because Brian Urlacher ended his season on the sideline for the second consecutive year and 2012 being the final year of his contract there is no clarity whether he will ever wear suit up as a Bear ever again.
With all of the bad that happened in the 2012 season, the Bears showed their fan base enough good to have faith for the 2013; barring some essential moves in the off-season. Some of the good the Bears showed included how great Brandon Marshall is by breaking the Bears record of most receiving yards in just his first year, another positive is that they have a veteran defense that still has some life in it and it can easily remain elite without Brian Urlacher. Another positive, although it is unfortunate, it is the firing of Lovie Smith. I do not believe Lovie Smith failed at all as a coach but I think it is time for change. Lovie led the Bears to a Superbowl 7 years ago but since then they have only been to the playoffs once and the offense has never ranked higher than 15th in Lovie’s tenure.