It couldn’t have been simpler.
There couldn’t have been greater motivation.
The Bears took the field in Philadelphia on Sunday night knowing they could win the NFC North and gain a playoff spot if they beat the Eagles.
The Lions lost at home earlier. The Packers lost at home shortly after that. Win on the road, and the Bears advanced to the postseason.
After a week of talk regarding a potentially “meaningless’’ game against the Eagles, the Bears faced a game that had more meaning than any this season.
What’s more, they were trying to accomplish it against a team that would be neither hurt nor helped by the result. The Eagles’ postseason life comes down to the final Sunday against the Cowboys.
And pffft. Immediately, pffft. The Bears channeled their inner Lions. Just threw up all over themselves right there in front of NBC and everybody.
The Bears won the toss and elected to receive unholy abuse, self-inflicted embarrassment and national humiliation.
Let’s relive the early, decisive stupidities together, shall we?
On third-and-3 at their 26, Jay Cutler was sacked. Then Adam Podlesh shanked a punt 25 yards. Then LeSean McCoy ripped off almost 20 yards. A couple plays after that, Nick Foles hit Riley Cooper for a score.
Then Devin Hester fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Then Foles had zero pressure and hit Zach Ertz for 27 yards. Then McCoy blasted up the middle for a score and 14-0 lead. The first quarter wasn’t half over, mind you.
And before the quarter was over, the Eagles would score again. Of course they would. It’s what they did against the Bears, like the scoreboard was a telethon.
At one point, the Eagles had 149 yards while the Bears had four -- count ‘em, four -- against one of the NFL’s worst defenses.
In no particular order, the Eagles converted a third-and-goal from the 10 for a score, a fourth-and-1 that went for 12, and a third-and-10 from their 8 that gained 16.
In the third quarter, the Eagles would register a safety, natch. The evening needed that.
And then the Eagles would take the ensuing free kick and destroy the Bears in 67 quick yards. The game officially devolved into a joke as McCoy spun out of Julius Peppers’ customary useless grip for a 33-3 lead.
Remember Peppers? Yeah, those were the good old days. Now he’s just old. And bad.
And Lance Briggs was a waste. Briggs got run over and smacked more than he made any plays of note in coming back from an injured shoulder. He was never going to be the savior, but he didn’t have to be Khaseem Greene, did he?
And speaking of jokes, the Bears had given up 156 rushing yards by the middle of the third quarter. That’s more than the Eagles usually run for. That’s more than the Bears usually give up.
But wait. There was more shame to be earned. The Bears didn’t get run over for more than 100 yards by one back, no, they got torched for 100-yard games by two Eagles runners. That’s a pathetic excuse for a defense.
But then, the entire Bears effort was a pathetic excuse for a football team. A national laughingstock, right down to Cutler’s pick-6 that pushed the Eagles close to 50 points in the fourth quarter and Bryce Brown’s 65-yard dash that vaulted Philadelphia to 54.
Surprisingly, this was not the end of the season for the Bears, no matter how much you wanted it to be, no matter how much it deserved to be. Bad and stupid is no way to go through the NFL, even in the weak NFC North, which, embarrassingly, the Bears still could win by beating the Packers next Sunday.
The game has been pushed back to a 3:25 p.m. start. So, the Bears get a bit of a prime-time do-over.
Or more likely, another chance to stink out loud.