A once promising Chicago Bears 2009 season is already over in early December. This past Sunday’s loss to the rival Green Bay Packers has ended the tiny bit of playoff hopes that still remained. This season has had many more bad moments than good, but which is the worst? Was there one single play or moment that turned our season into the mess that was 2009?
Let’s look at the culprits. When thinking about this season, three main moments stick out to me; Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher’s season ending wrist injury in the first game of the year; the trade for Gaines Adams in which we sent our highest pick in next year’s draft (2nd round) to Tampa Bay for the disappointing defensive end; and the ending of the Thursday night game against the San Francisco 49ers when despite having thrown four interceptions earlier in the game, quarterback Jay Cutler had a chance to win in the final seconds only to throw his fifth pick in the end zone.
Brian Urlacher’s injury has been dissected every which way since it happened in September. We know how important a player he is to our defense and how necessary a leader he is to our team. I don’t think we get absolutely blown out three times this year if he is in the lineup. We might not have won the blow out games, but the outcome may have been closer. Urlacher’s injury not only cost us our most important player on the field, maybe it also changed our team’s spirit. After months of over hype leading up to this season, maybe a crushing opening day lose to our nemesis the Packers coupled with the loss of Urlacher turned our optimism down. Maybe guys had their heads hung a little bit low only one game into the season?
The Bears were 3-1 and enjoying their bye week. They were only a few plays away from being undefeated and seemed to have things figured out heading into a tough Sunday night affair against the Atlanta Falcons. Two days before the prime time match-up, the Bears pulled off a stunning trade. Not stunning in the same way as the Jay Cutler trade, stunning as in ‘Why? What for?’
The Bears sent their second round 2010 draft pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for defensive end Gaines Adams. Adams was the number four overall pick in 2007 who has vastly underachieved in the NFL. With the Bears already without a first round draft pick and deep at the defensive line position, why would they make this trade? This also sends a signal to current Bears defensive ends and future free agents Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson that at least one of them would not be around next year.
This is a slap in the face to two Bears veterans who started the ’09 season strong. Maybe they felt no matter how hard they played this year, they are already being replaced. This may have brought resentment to the two free agents to be. Maybe they stopped playing as hard or played without focus because they knew they were no longer wanted? Tension in the locker room can cause even the strongest of teams to fold.
Two prime time games; two loses. Two huge blow outs in three weeks. A promising start to the season has quickly turned ugly. Not to worry, the Bears are back in prime time to face their old captain and current San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary. A win on Thursday night on national television will get this team going again. Early on, the Bears seemed to give this game away. Their struggling defense actually played very well despite four interceptions by Cutler. We knew we were the better team, but kept hurting ourselves.
Then when all hoped seemed lost, there was Cutler with the ball in his hands and a chance to win the game. All of his previous interceptions would be a thing of the past if the Bears pulled out this victory. The season would be saved and morale would be boosted with a come from behind, on the road, in prime time victory. Alas, it did not happen. Cutler did not erase the interceptions from our memory; he actually made them more vivid. With everything to gain, Cutler threw his fifth pick of the game and threw away our hopes of a season turn around with it. Maybe with that come from behind win, our Bears turn the season around and learn how to win close games?
There is no telling what made the Bears 2009 season go downhill fast. There were many on the field issues with this team. From coaching to penalties to turnovers, but maybe if one of the aforementioned moments did not take place, we would be talking about a Bears playoff run right now. Morale and confidence is what sets players apart at this level of completion. Lose that, and you have losing. Do you think one moment alone ruined this promising season? Or were the Bears destined to fail all along?