Bears' offense leads to slow death to postseason hopes

If it weren't for short fields, the offense might have thought the end zone was a made-up place, like Shangri-La.

Five of the Bears' six scoring drives went no more than four plays, and four went no more than 9 yards.

On those drives, the offense was the beneficiary of a Tim Jennings interception and three fumble recoveries — Joe Anderson and Eric Weems took the ball away from Joique Bell on a kickoff return, Israel Idonije stripped Matthew Stafford and Julius Peppers recovered, and Major Wright pounced on a bad exchange between Stafford and Mikel Leshoure.

The Bears scored 16 points off takeaways.

"It's disappointing," Cutler said. "I know it's frustrating for the defense to set us up like that and not being able to convert touchdowns."

Before he knew of the outcome of the Vikings-Packers game, Matt Forte talked in hopeful terms about the offense. He said he thought it could still improve, still be something it had failed to be through 16 games, 113 days and 999 snaps.

Their faith was more admirable than their execution.

Really, the way the Bears ended the game could have given fodder to all those scouring the tape of the game for a crumb of optimism. Two of their last three drives were, well, effective.

By Bears offensive standards, that is.

They moved 59 yards on 11 plays on their first fourth-quarter possession and got to the Lions 2 before settling for a 20-yard field goal. It was easily the team's best sustained scoring drive of the day.

And after the Lions got within two, the Bears took over with 3:40 remaining. In what was a victory worth toasting, the Bears got through those remaining minutes without having to punt.

"We're not where we need to be right now, but we'll continue to fight and get better each week," wide receiver Earl Bennett said afterward.

That sounded so much better in September than it did in December.