It’s been 18 months since one of the most tragic moments in Chicago sports history.
Yet time has failed to heal the massive wound that Cody Parkey put in the hearts of all Bears fans when he missed a 43-yard field goal in the opening round of the 2018 NFL Playoffs at Soldier Field.

While it might seem ridiculous to place the entire blame of a loss on just one player, after a season in which Parkey made just 76% of his kicks, it seemed inevitable that if the game depended on him the Bears would be doomed.


For some fanbases who have been very successful in recent years, such as the New England Patriots, one Wild Card round loss is overshadowed by other playoff success.


For the Bears, however, who have managed just one playoff victory this decade back in 2011, hopes were much higher for a team that went 12-4 and won the NFC North two seasons ago. 


What if the Bears never got into that position in the first place? What if the infamous “double-doink” never occurred and instead, the Bears were able to win just one more game over the course of the regular season and clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs?


Now that we are just a couple months away from the NFL season (hopefully) kicking off, it’s time for Bears fans to look back on that 2018 season, and what could’ve been, and move on forever.


Regular Season Losses

Finishing with a record of 12-4 in 2018 you’d think a team like the Bears, who went 8-8 with the same core last season, must’ve had a couple of games where they found a lucky way to win. However, it was quite the opposite, as the Bears never lost by more than seven points across their four losses, two of which came in overtime. In fact, some fans would argue that if the Bears did have some luck on their side during that season they had the potential to finish 16-0. 

First, it was Khalil Mack’s Bears debut in Green Bay in which he stole the show in the first half having both a strip-sack and returning an interception for a touchdown off Packers backup quarterback DeShone Kizer, giving the Bears a 17-0 lead at halftime against their archrival. But the second half was a totally different ballgame. Once star quarterback Aaron Rodgers returned for Green Bay in the third quarter he immediately turned things around, lighting the Bears up for three fourth-quarter touchdown passes and leading the Packers to a 24-23 victory, spoiling Mack’s debut and handing the Bears one of their most crushing losses to date.

While some argue that had the Bears’ defense been able to tackle Packers receiver Randall Cobb on his 75-yard touchdown with two minutes remaining or had Khalil Mack participated in the full duration of training camp and not looked like he had run out of energy by the fourth quarter, the Bears could’ve won.


Out of their four losses, however, this game, more than the other three, looked as if the Bears had simply got outdueled by Aaron Rodgers once again.

 


Because of the way they finished the season, many fans likely have forgotten that the Bears started this season off with a 3-3 record. After Green Bay, the teams’ next two losses came against the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots in Weeks 6 and 7, and both were matchups that ended in ways that make you think the Bears blew the game away. 

In Miami, the Bears defense once again allowed a 75-yard touchdown pass late in the game, with three minutes remaining this time around, in which Miami was able to force overtime. After the Bears defense came up with a huge forced fumble of Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake on the goalline with just five minutes remaining in overtime, the Bears marched downfield and set up Parkey for a potential game-winning field goal from 53 yards out.


The kicker showed he had the distance to make the kick, however, he missed wide-right, and the Dolphins went on to hit a game-winning field goal of their own almost immediately after. 


When New England came to Chicago a week later, the Bears were put to the test against the future Super Bowl champions. The Bears found themselves down 24-38 with just over eight minutes remaining in the game after Tom Brady threw for his third touchdown of the game. The Bears were able to score on the very next possession with quarterback Mitch Trubisky connecting with tight end Trey Burton, leaving four minutes on the clock. Once they were able to get the ball back, the Bears had enough time left for just one shot at the endzone from their own 45-yard line. After lining up for a hail mary, Trubisky tossed the ball up for grabs, and Bears receiver Kevin White appeared to have actually come down with the ball. However, he made the unlikely catch at the one-yard line, and Patriots defenders were able to hold him out of the endzone and ending the game.


This left the Bears falling just one yard short of tying the game and forcing overtime against the league’s top team, another heartbreaking loss in which the Bears came up just short. 


After going on a five-game win streak, the Bears would have to play their Week 12 and 13 games against the Detroit Lions and New York Giants without Trubisky, who left a Week 11 game against Minnesota in the first quarter after being injured. While the team took care of the Lions in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day after two late interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown, the Bears got off to a rough start against the Giants the following week when backup quarterback Chase Daniel threw a pick-six on the Bears opening possession.

Finding themselves down 27-17 with just 1:49 remaining in the game, the Bears needed a lot to go their way in the final minute and a half in order to come back and win. They quickly marched downfield and set up Parkey for a 21-yard field goal with just 1:13 left. The team then recovered their onside kick attempt, the first that had been successfully recovered by a team all year at that point in the season, and now had just over a minute of game left to score seven points.

Stuck on the one-yard line with just three seconds remaining, head coach Matt Nagy once again went into his bag of trick plays and drew up a play that saw running back Tarik Cohen toss a touchdown pass to receiver Anthony Miller as time expired, forcing overtime and showing that this Bears team had a lot of magic left in them. After that ten-point swing in under a two-minute span, it seemed that the Bears would certainly continue on this momentum into overtime and win against a Giants team that was just 3-8 at the time. After winning the coin toss, the Giants had the ball first and kicked a field goal on the first possession. Once the Bears took over, Daniel saw his 4th and 8 passes batted away after fumbling the play before.


This loss, like the other three that season, was hard for Bears fans to swallow, knowing had they had their starting quarterback in the given situation would they have been able to pull off the victory?


Seeding

As I mentioned earlier, had the Bears just won one of those four crazy games they would have finished the season with a record of 13-3, good enough to see them tied for the NFC lead with the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams.


Having defeated the Rams during the regular season, this would’ve meant that Chicago would receive a first-round bye in the playoffs and not be matched up with the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round.

This would’ve had a major impact on how the Bears postseason went for multiple reasons.


1) Eddie Jackson’s injury

After defeating the Packers at Soldier Field in Week 15 and clinching the division, Bears All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson would sit out of the last two regular-season games after injuring his right ankle late in the game after intercepting Aaron Rodgers.

Jackson was listed as active prior to the Wild Card game against Philadelphia, however, after testing his ankle in pregame warmups, Nagy decided to not play him for a single snap throughout the course of the game.

Had the Bears won just one more game during the regular season and got that first-round bye, Jackson would’ve been given another whole week of rest and would’ve been able to return in the playoffs, as he was almost ready to go during Wild Card weekend. 

2) Matchup

For the sake of this article, let’s say the Bears find a way to hold on and win one of those four losses that I broke down above. In that case, Chicago would’ve been the #2 seed in the NFC and found themselves matched up with the highest remaining seed after the Wild Card round.

Switching spots with the Rams, who would’ve also been 13-3 and the #3 seed in the NFC, the Bears would likely find themselves set for a rematch with Los Angeles assuming they defeat Philadelphia in the first round. The first time these two teams met the Bears embarrassed them on a Sunday Night game in Chicago.


In a game that featured just one touchdown, the Bears went on to win 15-6, handing the Rams just their second loss of the season and forcing four turnovers and holding Rams quarterback Jared Goff to just 180 passing yards. 

 

While this is already digging deep into hypotheticals, given the Bears would once again have a home-field advantage in this hypothetical playoff game with “Bear Weather” on their side, it is still impossible to predict what would have happened from there on for Chicago.


After the Bears failed to return to the playoffs last season, expectations are high for the team this year as fans are anxious to see if this core truly has what it takes to contend for the playoffs or if 2018 was just a fluke.

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