The Bears' season hit high peaks and low points, but the peaks all seemed to come before December, when the words "Super Bowl" got mentioned often at Halas Hall.
Struggling at crunch time led to a lowlight in the eyes of players after the season: coach Lovie Smith's firing. It's not often that a team has as many high points as the Bears had and still misses the playoffs, which only serves to further explain the coaching change.
- Road win over Cowboys -- Beating the Dallas Cowboys 34-18 in Dallas Oct. 1 in a way that reminded many off their 44-0 win in 1985 at Dallas. It included Charles Tillman's 10-yard interception return for a touchdown, Lance Briggs' 74-yard interception return and possibly Jay Cutler's best game as a Bear with a big 34-yard scoring pass to Devin Hester and 31-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall. The Bears went on the road and dominated Tony Romo, establishing themselves as serious threats.
- Urlacher's pick-6 against Titans -- Brian Urlacher's interception of Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and 46-yard touchdown return. The play triggered a 51-20 rout and represented the single highest point of the Bears' season with a 7-1 record. It was all downhill after that, especially for Smith.
- Victory vs. Vikings -- A 28-10 victory Nov. 25 over the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. After a couple shaky games, the Bears bounced back and dominated a playoff team by outscoring Minnestoa 25-3 in the first half while holding Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to 25 first-half yards. After this win, the Bears were 8-3 and still with playoff -- if not division title -- hopes.
- Loss to Vikings in Minnesota -- The two interceptions Cutler threw -- one returned for a touchdown and the other to the 5-yard line -- made possible the Minnesota Vikings' 21-14 victory over the Bears at the Metrodome. The defense gave up more than 100 yards rushing to Peterson after holding him to 25 first-half yards just a few weeks earlier. With the defeat, the Bears had to beat Green Bay to win the division and the win for Minnesota was the tiebreaker that enabled the Vikings to earn the sixth seed over the Bears.
- Home loss vs. Seahawks -- Russell Wilson engineering back-to-back 12-play drives, including one for 97 yards, to give Seattle a lead en route to a 23-17 overtime victory at Soldier Field. The Bears' defense looked old and worn out and wasted one of Cutler's best efforts of the year statistically (119.6 passer rating). The loss left the Bears struggling to keep afloat in the playoff chase.
- Cutler's pick against the Packers -- The Dec. 13 interception Cutler threw to Green Bay's Casey Hayward that set up a tie-breaking touchdown just before halftime turned the tide in yet another Packers' win over the Bears, 21-13. The Bears' loss handed the division title to Green Bay and may have been the defeat that caused GM Phil Emery to decide he'd seen enough of Smith's coaching.
Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSBears.