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SportsMonday: Gut-Punch

As the ball sailed toward the upright, I started to slide down in my chair. Then, for a moment, it seemed to stop tailing off to the left and I stopped sliding. Then the stupid football hit the upright.

Still, sometimes balls glance off the upright and still go through. This time the ball bounced straight down - still a chance! Then the ball hit the crossbar. Still alive! Then it became clear the ball was coming back into the field of play.

I jumped out of my seat and rushed toward a sometimes-irritating friend who had twice said in the minutes leading up to the kick, "Which upright do you think it will go off?" I didn't clench a first but I did raise my voice a bit as I asked, "Are you happy?" Then I slumped back into my seat.

It is a killer that Cody Parkey missed that kick but I'm not going to excoriate him here. He had a subpar year and probably would have been released midseason but for Ryan Pace having given him a ridiculous multi-year contract with almost $10 million guaranteed. But plenty of other things went wrong for this team in this game.

Clearly, it shouldn't have been this close. Virtually all of the Bears were inexperienced in the postseason and it showed, but they still should have won comfortably.

A number of folks are eligible for scapegoat status.

But first, let's remember that this still qualifies as a great season. It ended with a gut-punch of a loss but 12 wins, man! And the Bears were right there to possibly win in the final minutes of all five of the losses. This was an amazing run.

You might say it doesn't matter because the team gagged in the playoffs and lost to an inferior team. And there is something to be said for that point-of-view.

But there is more to be said for focusing on the regular season and focusing on the fact that all of the major players are relatively young and almost certain to return next year. The Bears will also almost certainly go into next season as at least a co-favorite to make the NFC Championship game.

Mitch Trubisky was clutch but he wasn't good enough overall. The Eagles defense is good but it was bad ridiculous the Bears only scored 15 points and it would have been only slightly less bad ridiculous if they had scored 18.

The second-year quarterback made undeniable progress this season, but he was also the luckiest quarterback I have ever seen in terms of opponents dropping potential interceptions all . . . season . . . long.

He's gotta clean that up. He's gotta get a lot better at going through progressions and making good passes from the pocket. He clearly missed injured tight end Trey Burton on Sunday but he still missed plenty of open recievers and he didn't get the ball to Tarik Cohen often enough.

We are still a long way from cursing the day that Ryan Pace botched another quarterback evaluation and made the bad ridiculous trade up to the second spot in the 2017 draft to take the guy who so far is the third-best quarterback in that draft. (Pat Mahomes is obviously better; Deshaun Watson is marginally better but it is close).

The Bears defense was not clutch and not good enough overall. They didn't generate nearly enough pressure on Nick Foles, didn't force enough turnovers and choked in the end. They missed nickelback Bryan Callahan, but come on.

A little later at my house after the game I turned to a friend's 15-year-old son, who is a true diehard, and said something like, "Just think, you have a whole life of Chicago sports suffering ahead of you."

But there is every reason to believe that next Bears season will contain a relatively tiny amount of that.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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