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Season goes down drain because of Jerry Angelo, Caleb Hanie

The Bears have fallen apart since Caleb Hanie (12) had take over QB for Jay Cutler. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

The Bears have fallen apart since Caleb Hanie (12) had to take over at QB for Jay Cutler. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 20, 2012 8:16AM



It ended as it should have, with Soldier Field as populated as a town that had disappeared under the waves. The Lost City of Bear-lantis.

The smart people had left earlier, while the home team was busy express-mailing a 31-0 second half to the Seahawks. If the Bears had been honest with themselves, they would have acknowledged that there was justification for the mass exodus. A season had fallen apart underneath a tidal wave of bad quarterback play.

But the truth is always in short supply with the Bears, at least when it’s an uncomfortable strain of the truth, and so they looked Sunday and refused to see.

“Until someone tells us we’re eliminated or something like that, we’ll continue to play,’’ coach Lovie Smith said.

You’re eliminated. How’s that?

It’s difficult to fool people in the NFL when the sleight of hand involves a lack of talent. When lots of otherwise-smart onlookers were saying that the Seahawks would be tired coming off a Monday night victory and that travel to faraway Chicago would take its toll, the rest of us saw quarterback Caleb Hanie’s previous three games and wondered if anyone had been paying attention.

The result was a 38-14 Seattle victory.

It’s why Bears fans were streaming out of the building in the third quarter. They had witnessed a disaster brought on by the disastrous decision the team had made after Jay Cutler broke his thumb four weeks ago. It decided Hanie could take a 7-3 team and put together enough victories to get the Bears to the postseason, at which time Cutler would be ready to play.

The worst part wasn’t the decision. The worst part was not recognizing the mistake after one or two games of Hanie. The Bears’ real sin was in stubbornly sticking to “the plan.’’ “The plan’’ is a little like that self-help book The Secret: Nobody knows what the hell it means.

The Bears are 0-4 since Cutler went down, and although there probably is an Advanced Placement math class that will tell us why they’re still alive in the chase for a playoff berth, anybody with a stethoscope would disagree.

Hanie threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns in the second half. Here’s a statement that can never be proved but still needs to be shouted: No way Donovan McNabb throws those picks. No way.

A season fell apart because the Bears were ill prepared for adversity, the word football teams throw around so cavalierly. They talked about the importance of resiliency when Cutler went down, remember? They have been as resilient as hand wipes.

Sam Hurd’s arrest on federal drug charges three days before the game might have been a distraction, but it didn’t cause this loss. That’s too convenient an excuse. This was about bad football, an overmatched quarterback and a bumbler of a general manager. We now know that the drop-off from Cutler to Hanie is like a plane encountering wind shear. That says less about Cutler’s ability than it does about Jerry Angelo’s faith in Hanie. It says an awful lot about Angelo’s judgment.

So there Hanie was, struggling most of the game, and there was his fourth-quarter replacement, Josh McCown, throwing an interception almost immediately.

The Bears have a night game in Green Bay next, and it’s hard to see the Packers being in a charitable mood on Christmas, not after the lowly Chiefs beat them. It could be ugly. Or uglier.

“I’ll be ready to go’’ if called upon, McCown said.

Swell.

The Bears’ defense played well enough to win several of the games without Cutler and running back Matt Forte. It was due for a bad game. Cornerback Tim Jennings, burned on a couple of long passes, obliged. But as much as the defensive players were taking responsibility for the loss, they had to know better.

As the fourth quarter faded away, Soldier Field was nearly empty. It was as if fans from two small high schools had come to root their teams on in a big-city stadium.

“We’ve got to give them a reason to stay,’’ safety Craig Steltz said.

How about a quarterback, for starters?



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