Sports

Bears' season all but over

A week after being Tebowed, the Bears managed to get T-Jacked with their fragile season hanging in the balance.

Minus quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte, the Bears admitted their defense needed to step up and carry them. Brian Urlacher said exactly that four weeks ago when a broken thumb sidelined Cutler. But facing another quarterback not known for skilled passing, Lovie Smith's defense made far too few plays, and career prospect Tarvaris Jackson badly outdueled Caleb Hanie.

The 38-14 beatdown by the Seahawks on Sunday at Soldier Field effectively ended the Bears' season, which not long ago looked so promising.

The Bears feasted on other teams' backup quarterbacks last season when they rolled to an NFC North crown. They've proven inept with their own as they are now 0-4 with Hanie, who had another dreadful adventure before mercifully being benched, perhaps for good.

The Bears (7-7) have lost four straight games, tying for the longest losing streak in the Lovie Smith era. The crushing defeat came on the heels of a nightmarish week, with wide receiver Sam Hurd being arrested Wednesday night after accepting a kilogram of cocaine from an undercover federal agent, according to a criminal complaint. It didn't get better as wide receiver Johnny Knox will undergo back surgery Monday to stabilize a vertebra following a devastating hit from Seahawks defensive end Anthony Hargrove.

Hanie completed 10 of 23 passes for 111 yards with a first-half 25-yard touchdown to Kahlil Bell, but the game unraveled after intermission when he had two interceptions returned for touchdowns. It was so ugly in the fourth quarter a Bears employee in the press box asked for the television to be switched to the Packers game, and that was before Brandon Browner returned an interception 42 yards to the end zone with five minutes remaining.

"They totally self-destructed," Seahawks safety Atari Bigby said.

Jackson shook off a poor start to complete 19 of 31 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown, his 43-yard strike to Ben Obomanu at the start of the third quarter setting up a 3-yard Marshawn Lynch touchdown run that started the Seahawks (7-7) on a string of 31 unanswered points. Jackson fumbled once, but the Bears had five turnovers, including an interception in the end zone when Hanie underthrew tight end Kellen Davis on a seam route.

Hanie's first start in Oakland — when he made some athletic plays, particularly late — proved to be a tease. Since, he's been a disaster in the pocket and once the Seahawks penned him in, it was over. Hanie's 41.8 passer rating and 0-4 record make him worse than the rotation of flunkies during the 2004 Terry Shea experience.

The Bears, who were 7-3 on Nov. 20 when Cutler was injured, didn't offer any excuses related to Hurd's shocking bust.

"It's tough going right now," Smith said. "But we've got to look to the future."

It might be time to set their sights on free agency and the draft. Even though the Bears haven't mathematically been eliminated from the postseason hunt, to end their slide they've got to win at Lambeau Field on Christmas night against a Packers team that will be fuming after its first loss of the season.

The Bears were coming off losses to the Chiefs and Broncos in which the defense allowed less than 14 points on both occasions. It was only the fourth time in franchise history that had happened in back-to-back losses. A defense that has no room for error has been betrayed by an offense that is impotent without Cutler and Forte. The Bears have scored two offensive touchdowns in the last 188 minutes, 37 seconds.

"When you plug guys in, sometimes the mesh doesn't happen," Hanie said. "It hasn't happened for us. It's hard. It's a little confusing. It's hard to figure out."

Time has just about run out, and one of the questions in the final two weeks will be whether offensive coordinator Mike Martz, whose contract is up after this season, will be made a fall guy. It's hard to pin Hanie's failures on him. Remember, Martz wanted any veteran but Hanie a year ago.

The Bears will have another problem if they allow the critical injuries down the stretch to obscure other shortcomings on the roster.

"This is not our team," Urlacher said. "This is not how we're supposed to play. This is not how we should play. It doesn't matter who is playing quarterback. Our defense has to play better. That's all there is to it."

bmbiggs@tribune.com

Twitter @BradBiggs

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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