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Carolina Blues

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jan 16, 2006 6:40PM

2006_01_sports_bears_panthers_playoffs.jpgThe Bears magical season came to an end Sunday evening as the Carolina Panthers beat the Bears 29-21 in front of a packed Soldier Field. There will be no trip to Seattle for the Bears next weekend and no trip to Detroit.

Steve Smith gave the Bears a preview of what to expect the rest of the game when he scored on a 58-yard touchdown reception within the first minute of the game. He ended up burning the Bears defense for 218 yards on 12 catches with two TDs and always seemed to make a big play just as the Bears started gaining momentum. The defense just couldn't contain the Panthers as they did in their Week 11 meeting. That game saw the Bears defense sack Carolina QB Jake Delhomme 8 times and pick him off twice while holding the Panthers to 238 yards of offense and just 3 points. Big difference from yesterday's game, that included just 1 sack and 1 interception while the Panthers burned the Bears for 434 yards and 29 points.

While the defense had trouble stopping the Panthers offense, the Bears offense actually played a halfway decent game -- at least according to expectations. Rex Grossman settled down after an ugly first couple possessions. He completed 17 of 41 passes for 192 yards with 1 TD and 1 interception. And the offense did score 21 points. But Chicagoist wants to know why they threw so much, when that clearly hadn't been their gameplan all season and Rex Grossman had all of 6 quarters of action under his belt this year. Thomas Jones ran the ball just 20 times.

While it's disappointing that the Bears season is over, it's also time to remember what expectations were for this team entering the resular season. Many were questioning whether they could reach 5-11, let alone the 11-5 mark they posed. Most figured that the Bears would be busy scouting Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart about now, not mouring a playoff loss.

This team looks like they're poised to be a force in the NFC for a couple years. Nearly their entire defense is locked up for next season, as are most of the key offensive players. Free agency and the draft can fill some minor holes and build depth. This team could be as close the Super Bowl as the 1984 Bears. Chicagoist doesn't think that we'll see a repeat of 2002 -- when the team crashed following 2001's surprising 13-3 season.

The biggest question in our mind is what to do about the QB situation in 2006. The Bears have a stable of quality running backs, a former Pro Bowl wide receiver and some young receivers ready to step up. But the QB situation remains the weakest link on this team. If they are entering a 2-3 window of competing for a Super Bowl with this squad, do they need to sign a free agent QB to get them over that hump? Chicagoist isn't sure Grossman's the guy yet. And by the time he develops, could it be too late?

Photos via Yahoo!News