I hate the Packers, and I wish the Bears would have kicked their asses back to Cheeseland yesterday. But anyone who says stupid shit like "The Bears still suck!" in the wake of their NFC Championship loss is an idiot with a short-term memory.
For most of 2009, fans were calling for Coach Lovie Smith's scalp, and I'll admit I was one of them. Frankly, the Ditka temperament suits me much better than laid-back Lovie. To the owners' credit and my amazement, the Bears spent heavily on free agents last spring, particularly defensive end Julius Peppers. They also brought in Mike Martz to coach the offense. Then the pre-season began, and the 2010 Bears didn't look any better than before, losing all their games despite a pretty easy schedule (Chargers, Raiders, Cardinals, Browns).
When the real season started, we had little hope and even lower expectations. They barely beat Detroit -- Detroit! -- thanks to a controversial call by the officials (personally, I think it was wrong and the Bears should have lost that game, but we'll take the W). Although a victory over Dallas got many fans excited, we weren't so impressed later in the season as the Cowboys turned out to be a bust. The Bears season was up-and-down, including wins over some impressive teams and losses to some not-so-impressive teams. I had a hard time believing in them, and yet they were putting together a pretty good season, finishing 11-5.
The Bears split with the Packers during the regular season. They dropped the last game of the season in Lambeau Field despite playing their starters (and perhaps unwisely risking injuries when their playoff seed was already decided). Although the Bears won the NFC North division, the Packers were surging. They won their wildcard game against the Eagles and beat the tar out of the NFC Conference-leading Falcons, scoring 48 points.
Yesterday even Bears legend Dan Hampton picked the Packers to win, along with Las Vegas and most of the TV analysts. Aaron Rodgers is one hell of a quarterback, whereas Cutler has been hot and cold all season. In the end, the Packers simply played better than the Bears. I don't think the Bears played poorly; they just lost to a better (at least at the moment) team. Third QB Caleb Hanie played surprisingly well against a defense that clearly flummoxed starting QB Jay Cutler* in the first half. Hanie showed poise both on the field and in the post-game press conference.
Considering all of the above, how can I feel unhappy about coming within eight points of going to the Super Bowl? I'm disappointed, of course, but there is no reason to be down on the team. The 2010 Bears gave us fans much more than we ever expected.
* By the way, the ignorant masses who are questioning Cutler's toughness simply haven't been paying attention this season. He took a beating all year behind a shaky offensive line and only missed one game (due to a concussion). You can question his inconsistent performance, but he is not a wimp.