The 2011 Chicago Bears looked to be a sure bet to secure the top wildcard spot in the playoffs. The day was November 20th, the time early evening. The Bears had just won their fifth straight game as they handily beat the reeling San Diego Chargers. The previous week, the Bears had avenged an earlier loss to the Detroit Lions, delivering a 37-13 mauling and seemingly knocking the Lions out of any possibility of the playoffs.
The Bears were an improbable 7-3 team at the time. They had started the season 1-2, then 2-3, in the same fashion as they had in 2010. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz was virtually ignoring the run game at the beginning of the season, and the results were indicative of such. But following another return to the run behind Matt Forte, then leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage, the Bears were on fire.
Forte wasn’t the only reason. Quarterback Jay Cutler looked to finally be hitting his groove as leader of the Bears offense. After the Chargers game, Cutler was on pace to finish the season with 3,700 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. In Bears annals, that would be a remarkable season.
As postgame interviews were being completed that November 20th, news began to spread that this Bears season would in all likelihood take a fortuitous turn for the worse. On a seemingly innocuous play in the second half, receiver Johnny Knox slipped on a simple slant route, and Cutler’s pass was intercepted. The quarterback instinctively chased after the defender, helping to save a touchdown. On the tackle, replays showed that the quarterback threw his right arm high and towards the defender in the tackle effort, and Cutler’s right hand ended up striking the field with force.
The end result of this seemingly routine play was a break at the base of the thumb on Cutler’s throwing hand. The initial news was that the quarterback would miss a few weeks but would potentially return for the playoffs.
The end news was that the 2011 Chicago Bears would lose five of their final six games, finish with an 8-8 record on the season, and endure one of the most surprising reversals of a season’s fortunes in their history.
Read the rest of this article on the 2011 Chicago Bears Season.