Jay Cutler and the Bears offense were their usual, innefficient selves, squandering scoring chances in Detroit. (US Presswire)

Earning a respectable report card after being denied a playoff berth is a little like finding out you've aced the final exam but have flunked the course.

The Bears gave a spotty performance Sunday considering their season was on the line, but in the end it was enough to pull out a 26-24 victory at Ford Field over the Detroit Lions.
However, all they could do was get on a plane and return to Halas Hall to clean out the lockers because Vikings RB Adrian Peterson found a way to beat Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

It left the Bears watching the playoffs for the fifth time in six years and created a touchy decision on coach Lovie Smith's future for GM Phil Emery. Fan outrage is high and the majority of fans seem to be decidedly against Smith returning. So Emery will have some explaining to do if he opts to buck public opinion.

Offense: C+

Considering they had two of their top three longest pass plays on the season, RB Matt Forte had one of his three 100-yard rushing games and the offense kept the ball at game's end to preserve the lead, it looks like a smashing success. However, of the eight times they had the ball inside the opposing 30, they came away with two TDs. They were gifted the ball at the Lions' 24, 10, 23, and 13 and came away with only 16 points. It was a very inefficient effort that typified the entire season. Previous game's grade: C-
Defense: B-

For a while, it shaped up as one of their best efforts of the season with the playoffs on the line, as four turnovers produced great field position for the offense. But then came the usual end-of-first-half collapse -- they gave up an 80-yard TD drive for the 11th score allowed in the final 3:30 of the half this year -- and then another 80-yard drive before the offense stepped up at the right time. Anthony Walters gave a solid performance filling in at free safety (six tackles, two for losses) for injured Chris Conte. The pass rush wasn't what they needed for a critical contest and DE Julius Peppers was almost nonexistent with a hurry, a fumble recovery, a deflection but no tackles or sacks. LB Lance Briggs had a reckless late hit on sliding QB Matthew Stafford that nearly cost the Bears the game. Previous game's grade: A

Special teams: B-

P Adam Podlesh and punt coverage gave spectacular efforts. Podlesh had balls downed at the 9, 8, 9, and 13, but PK Olindo Mare missed a 43-yard field goal that would have made the second half much easier, and Devin Hester experienced his usual trouble fielding short punts twice. He also fouled up the return of the second half kickoff so that the Bears were pinned back at their own 5-yard line. Previous game's grade: D
Coaching: C

Some of Mike Tice's play calling in the red zone will go into a textbook some day -- on what not to do. Near the goal line he had them throw on first down, and when it was incomplete, he predictably went back to the run. Lovie Smith made yet another silly decision regarding a penalty. He declined a holding penalty that would have left Detroit in a second-and-13 situation backed up at its 17, and instead opted for a third-and-5 play early in the fourth quarter. Of course, Detroit converted the short play and then went on to a touchdown to get within 26-24. It was a decision barely noted, but a mistake Smith repeatedly makes. Rod Marinelli's defensive game plan called for a lot of disguised coverages and late switches before snaps, as well as some blitzes out of the slot. They weren't going to just sit there in cover-2 and see the season go down in flames, even with a backup safety playing. Previous game's grade: C+
Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSBears.