This Johnny Knox touchdown on a punt return was called back because Corey Graham was flagged for holding. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: February 10, 2012 5:05PM
‘‘It’s been a tough year.’’
Israel Idonije’s lament after the Bears’ 38-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field was the understatement of the year. The Bears’ luck figured to change after an unusual amount of good health and good fortune sparked their run to the NFC Championship Game last season. But it went from one extreme to the other.
Just as the Bears created some of their breaks last season, they created some of their misfortune this season. Jay Cutler’s devastating injury happened after an interception. Johnny Knox’s scary spinal injury came after he fumbled. Matt Forte’s season-ending knee injury came after a missed block. Promoting Roy Williams ahead of Knox before training camp created an unnecessary distraction.
It was a tough 2011, indeed, for the Bears. Tim McCaskey, a vice president and the second-oldest of Ed and Virginia McCaskey’s 11 children, died of cancer Jan. 30. Brian Urlacher’s mother, Levoyda Lenard, died suddenly at 51 at her home in Texas.
On the field, the Bears persevered through adversity for most of the season, but eventually they crumbled under the immense weight of injuries, bad breaks and distractions.
It seems that ever since the Bears failed to knock out the Packers in Week 17 last season, fate started moving its huge hands against them. Everywhere the Bears turned, it seemed that it just wasn’t their year:
◆ Cutler was in the best groove of his NFL career, leading the Bears to a fifth consecutive victory and a 7-3 record when he suffered a broken thumb chasing down the San Diego Chargers’ Antoine Cason on an interception return.
◆ Knox’s touchdown against the Packers on an ingenious punt return — Devin Hester faked a catch on one side of the field to draw defenders as Knox caught the ball on the other — was nullified by a holding penalty on Corey Graham.
◆ A year ago, Aaron Rodgers threw a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half, and Urlacher knocked it down to Lance Briggs for an interception. This season, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Tyler Palko threw a Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half, and Urlacher and Chris Conte knocked it down to Dexter McCluster for a touchdown.
◆ Last season, Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards tripped backing up into coverage, creating an opening for Hester’s 19-yard touchdown that gave the Bears the lead. This season, Knox’s slip led to Cutler’s interception and broken thumb.
◆ The Bears selected Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi with the 29th pick in the draft but created ill will when they reneged on a deal with the Baltimore Ravens to move up to No. 26 — mistakenly thinking Carimi would be taken by the Chiefs at No. 27 — after a communications foul-up.
◆ Carimi, a starter in the season opener, suffered a dislocated kneecap in Week 2 at New Orleans. He was supposed to miss four to six weeks but never returned and will undergo more surgery.
◆ Briggs, after saying his unhappiness with the Bears’ refusal to renegotiate his contract wouldn’t be a distraction, formally asked the team to trade him three days later.
◆ Forte, unhappy with his rookie contract that’s paying him $600,000 a year, proves he’s worth a raise by leading all running backs in yards from scrimmage but suffers a knee injury against the Chiefs that puts him out for the season.
◆ Marion Barber, who replaced Forte, rushes for 108 yards on 27 carries against the Denver Broncos in his first game as a stater. But he inexplicably runs out of bounds late in the fourth quarter, giving the Broncos a chance to tie the game. After getting the Bears in field-goal range in overtime, he fumbles, giving quarterback Tim Tebow a chance to rally the Broncos to a crushing 13-10 loss.
◆ Happy-go-lucky wide receiver Sam Hurd is arrested on federal drug charges Dec. 16 after allegedly buying a kilogram of cocaine with the intent to purchase enough cocaine and marijuana on a weekly basis to become one of the biggest drug kingpins in the country. He was cut two days later.
As it turned out, the season ended where this whole mess began, at Lambeau Field, where the Bears lost to the Packers for the fourth time in 2011. The good news is that when the Bears finish the season Jan. 1 against the Vikings, it already will be a brand new year.