The Chicago Bears looked downright awful for three quarters of their final game of the season against the Green Bay Packers, but were able to keep it close and only lose by seven with a good shot to push for overtime at the end.
Their defense played outstanding and made the same Aaron Rodgers, who has been a postseason god, look like a below-average quarterback.
The stat-line of 244 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 55.4 quarterback rating, something you don't expect out of somebody who is a top five quarterback in the NFL.
The defense obviously wasn't the problem, despite a few bad drives early in the game, they were able to settle down and shut down a Packers offense that is one of the best in the NFL.
The problem was the offense.
Namely Jay Cutler.
He somehow found a way to have a lower quarterback rating in his half of play than Todd Collins in his quarter. Keep in mind that Collins didn't complete a single pass.
Caleb Hanie tried to remedy the situation by mounting a late-game come back, leading the Bears to both of their touchdowns and throwing for 153 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late.
The big issue that most Bears fans have against Cutler after his poor performance against the Packers is his toughness, the way that he seemingly gave up and didn't want to play the second half of the game. It didn't help that Fox only told us that he had a knee injury and then spent a lot of the rest of the game showing him standing around on the sideline.
It turns out that the injury Cutler had was actually quite serious, an MCL injury, and he actually showed a lot of toughness by going out and attempting to play in the second half.
My issue with the Chicago Bears isn't Jay Cutler's toughness. In fact, it isn't Jay Cutler at all, I think that he is a good quarterback who can lead a team to the Super Bowl with some good pieces around him.
My issue is that (outside of Matt Forte), he doesn't really have any good pieces.
The offensive line, although improved throughout the second half of the season, is still a very big liability, and having your big name quarterback get sacked 52 times isn't something that a team that playing the NFC Championship game should have.
He got sacked at least four times in seven games, led by the horrible performance against the New York Giants where he was sacked nine times.
The Bears need to work through both the draft and free agency to try to fix their offensive line problems.
According to Football Outsiders, the Bears offensive line ranked 28th in run blocking and last in pass blocking, something that isn't surprising, but needs to be fixed. Among playoff teams, only Seattle had a worse run blocking statistically.
Pressure breeds bad decisions, and even while being sacked more than anybody else in the NFL, Cutler was able to cut down on interceptions and throw fewer than both Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
The second issue that the Bears need to fix, if they intend to give Jay Cutler the tools to thrive, is their wide receiving core. I'm not saying that they have to get rid of anybody because the players they have play very well.
The issue is that they don't have a clear cut No. 1 receiver. Johnny Knox played well this season and came just short of breaking 1,000 yards while ending the season tied for fifth in yards per catch.
Although Knox is good, I see him best being a No. 2 receiver for the Bears, with Earl Bennett in the slot. The Bears need to use free agency to try to find a top tier receiver who can give Cutler that big target he loves so much.
With guys like Vincent Jackson and Braylon Edwards possibly heading into free agency, the Bears need to pick up somebody who can be the leader of this receiving core.
With the offseason here, the Bears need to start looking at ways to improve their offense if they want to be able to make that next step and become Super Bowl champions again.
I'm Joe W.