But the Bears, just like most of the NFL, had no clue how to stop Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. For the first time in his NFL career, Rodgers threw five touchdown passes, which was way more than 14-1 Green Bay needed to eliminate the 7-8 Bears from postseason consideration.
But heading into the season finale at Minnesota, the Bears have some consolation in knowing they have found upgrades at the backup spots at quarterback and running back. Josh McCown, starting his first game in four years, gave the Bears a spark, and Kahlil Bell ran for 121 yards on 23 carries with Matt Forte and Marion Barber sidelined by injuries. Forte won't be back this year, and the Bears don't need Barber as long as they have Bell.
McCown proved to be a lot more deserving of future playing time than Caleb Hanie, the starter in the previous four Bears losses. McCown did not play football last season and completed one pass in 2009, but he showed better touch and a more confident pocket presence than Bears fans have seen lately. He finished 19-for-28 for 242 yards and a passer rating of 76.8.
"I tried to give the team a spark," McCown said. "But the offensive line, that's what really gave us the spark. We were able to pound them (on the ground). I felt comfortable. (Offensive coordinator) Mike (Martz) and (quarterbacks coach) Shane Day did a heck of a job getting me ready."
McCown was effective throwing when the Bears decided to open it up in the second half.
"I think he did an amazing job," Bell said. "He found open receivers, hit them in stride, he made amazing plays with his legs (38 yards on eight scrambles). It's just encouraging. But being knocked out of playoff contention is kind of disappointing."
After catching 21 passes for 308 yards in the first seven games this season, Devin Hester caught just four passes for 47 yards in the next eight games, as he's attempted to battle through a sprained ankle. He did not catch a single pass Sunday night.
Even his production in the return game has plummeted in recent weeks. Since his 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Vikings on Oct. 16, Hester has returned 12 kickoffs for 196 yards, a subpar 16.3-yard average, with a long of just 25 yards.
Since his 82-yard punt-return touchdown against the Lions on Nov. 13, he has nine returns for 141 yards, an excellent 15.7-yard average, but he was averaging 20.1 yards before that.
On Sunday night, he returned two punts a total of seven yards and five kickoffs for 117 yards (23.4-yard average).
Hester's career punt-return average of 13.1 yards is still the highest in NFL history.