This time there was no Marion Barber, no Roy Williams to blame. The offense gave as many points as it scored. The defense did about the same. And the Bears playoff hopes moved so close to the brink that, with a trip to Green Bay coming up next Sunday, any scenarios by which the Bears could make the playoffs didnt seem worth figuring out anymore.
The 38-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks (7-7), in which Seattle scored 31 unanswered points in the second half, allowed yet another team to slip by the Bears, who were 7-3 this time a month ago and wondering who besides themselves would be in the wild-card round.
Until someone tells us were eliminated or something like that, said coach Lovie Smith, well continue to play, but theres disappointment right now.
But no Bears team has ever lost four straight games and made the postseason that year. And the suspicion after Sundays death spiral in the second half is that the Bears are not done losing this season.
The Bears have lost in stunning overtime fashion in Denver and to Kansas City by way of a Hail Mary heave at the end of halftime. This week, they were blown out in the second half as the defense allowed 202 yards and appeared rocked into submission by lack of help from the offense or special teams.
Its been a tough way to lose, said defensive end Israel Idonije, who scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone in the first quarter. All of these losses have been extremely tough to swallow.
The Bears can still qualify for the playoffs if they win at Green Bay and Minnesota, and the Detroit Lions lose the rest of their games. But the Bears have not won in a month and there is little reason to suspect they will start now, even against a Packers team that finally lost and has little to play for now beyond late-playoff seeding.
Caleb Hanie completed just 7-of-15 passes through three quarters for 92 yards. He had a 25-yard TD pass but also had a crushing interception returned for a touchdown by a Seattle defensive lineman.
Hanie finished with 10-for-23 passing for 111 yards and three interceptions, the last returned 42 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Brandon Browner late in the fourth quarter.
Hes had his ups and downs. Its just something hell learn from, said wide receiver Roy Williams, who may given the best indicator for Hanies future.
Best of luck to him the rest of the way.
No. 2 quarterback Josh McCown came on with five minutes to play and was unable to make any difference. It will be an NFL-grade surprise if McCown is not under center with the No. 1 offense this week after the Bears futility reached 0-4 under Hanie.
The defense put points of its own on the board but was pushed around in a listless second half, 137 yards in the third quarter, and appeared to be simply going through the motions as Seattle rolled off 31 unanswered points in the second half, albeit with huge help from Hanie.
Hurtin Bears unravel
This defeat was marked by several scary injury moments. Wide receiver Johnny Knox had to be carted off the field after suffering a back injury following his fumble in the first quarter. Safety Chris Conte was lost to a foot injury in the second quarter.
After going in with their first halftime lead in four games, the Bears came unhinged.
The defense allowed Seattle only 40 yards in the first quarter and 44 in the second. The Seahawks virtually matched those two plays on their opening drive of the third quarter, with Marshawn Lynch finishing an 80-yard drive with a three-yard scrum into the end zone.
The drive included Tarvaris Jackson completions covering 33 and 43 yards, the longest plays other than the Kansas City Hail Mary in the past three games.
That was followed by a nightmare dj vu for Hanie as he responded to a blitz in his face by linebacker K.J. Wright and unloaded a pass right into the midsection of 323-pound defensive end Red Bryant.
Bryant did exactly what Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji did with a similar Hanie gaffe in the NFC Championship game: returned it for a touchdown, covering 20 yards and putting Seattle ahead 21-14.
The disasters gave the Seahawks 14 points in the span of 50 seconds.
The Chicago offense got into Seattles end of the field three times in the first half. The third time was the charm, ending with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Hanie to Kahlil Bell.
That throw gave Hanie a brief stay of job execution after an otherwise punchless offensive first half in which the Bears totaled 168 yards of offense.
The score gave the Bears their first halftime lead at 14-7 with Hanie as their quarterback. The difference was that the offense converted all three third-down opportunities on a 57-yard drive, the Bears longest under Hanie since the fourth quarter of the Oakland game.
A team desperately needing a fast start suffered anything but. Hanie was nearly intercepted by defensive end Chris Clemons dropping into coverage on Hanies first attempt. Then Hanie completely overthrew a wide-open Bell on a third-down attempt inside the Seattle 40.
Far worse, Knox caught a third-down pass on the previous possession, had the first down but then fumbled. The ball was recovered by Seattle but that was secondary to a frightening injury to Knox, who was bent backwards by defensive end Anthony Hargrove.
Knox was carted off the field, done for the game, but fortunately able to move his extremities sometime later.
The fumble was turned into points despite the Bears throwing the Seahawks for losses on three straight plays starting at the Chicago 1. But on a short field-goal attempt, Corey Graham used teammates to gain additional height trying to block the kick.
The leverage personal-foul call gave Seattle a break that became 7 points when Marshawn Lynch powered in for a touchdown.
The defense picked up both the offense and special teams as Peppers slipped down on his pass rush, got back to his feet and arrived with second-effort in time to knock the ball out of Jacksons hand before the Seattle quarterback could start his arm forward.
The resulting sack-fumble, in the end zone, was recovered by Idonije to give the Bears their first first-half touchdown under Hanie since the Oakland game.