CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23: Johnny Knox #13 of the Chicago Bears runs ahead of Tramon Williams #38 of the Green Bay Packers for a 32-yard gain in the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Johnny Knox;Tramon Williams
Though having Jay Cutler's injury didn't help matters, it was not the only reason the Bears are sitting at home today while the Packers are making plans to head to Dallas. The loss was an all-hands-in kind of effort. Why else did the Bears lose?
- The pass rush was caught off-guard early on. The Packers made two first downs right off the bat, crossing into Chicago territory within the first minute of the game. Where was the passing coverage? Aaron Rodgers had plenty of time to throw, and Greg Jennings had room to run. Those first two plays made it unlikely that the Pack was going to get out of this possession without points, and it's all because the defense was caught with its pants down against a team that they've played twice.
- Special teams contributed little. A key part of the Bears success was their special teams. The Bears averaged 25.4 yards per return in the regular season. Not this game. Here, they averaged 12.625 yards. Green Bay didn't shy away from kicking the ball to Devin Hester -- he had four returns, but only came up with forty yards.
- Baffling coaching decisions. Apparently, Lovie Smith really wanted Brad Maynard to get a workout on Sunday, because twice in the first quarter, when the Bears were in long field goal-range, Smith opted to punt. One was a 52-yarder, another was a 49-yarder, on a rare, low-wind day at Soldier Field. The field goals weren't definite, but Smith showed no confidence in Robbie Gould, a kicker who has inspired nothing but throughout the season.
- Johnny Knox's inability to fight for the ball: The Bears threw three interception on Sunday, and two of those should have been broken up by Knox. As the go-to guy on long bombs, there's a fair chance that Knox will be fighting a DB for a pass, and sometimes, that DB will come up with it. What Knox doesn't have yet is the ability to switch himself into DB mode and knock the ball out of the hands of his defender. He would be wise to spend time this off-season with the Bears secondary, learning to deflect passes as well as he can catch him.
See? There are plenty of scapegoats for Sunday's loss. We don't have to put all the pressure on Cutler's knee. That may end up worsening the tear.
Copyright NBC Owned Television Stations