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Make-or-break finales have been full of drama

Posted Dec 29, 2012

Sunday marks the seventh time since 1970 that the Bears' playoff fate will be determined in their final regular season game. The previous six have been filled with drama.

It's do or die Sunday for the Bears, who need a win over the Lions in Detroit coupled with a Vikings loss to the Packers in Minnesota to earn a wildcard berth.

This is the seventh time since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger that the Bears' playoff fate will be determined in their final regular season game. They're hoping the end result mirrors what transpired in 1977, 1979 and 1994 and not what occurred in 1982, 1995 and 2008.

Lance Briggs tackles running back Ryan Moats in the Bears' loss to the Texans in the 2008 finale.
The only other time the Bears were in this position under coach Lovie Smith was in 2008 when they needed a Week 17 win over the Texans in Houston coupled with losses by the Buccaneers to the Raiders and the Cowboys to the Eagles.

While both Tampa Bay and Dallas cooperated by losing, the Bears-who may have been too preoccupied with scoreboard watching-blew an early 10-0 lead in a bitter 31-24 defeat.

"We looked at all the different scenarios and we forgot about the one that really mattered; us winning the game," said coach Lovie Smith.

Linebacker Lance Briggs blamed the loss on "too much looking at what other teams were doing rather than keeping the Texans out of the end zone."

The other five times the Bears' playoff fate was determined in their final regular season game have been packed with high drama. Here's a closer look at those developments:

In 1977, the Bears needed a road victory over the New York Giants to earn a wildcard spot and their first playoff berth since winning the 1963 NFL Championship.

Playing in a sleet storm on an icy field, Bob Thomas booted a 28-yard field goal with :07 left in overtime to give the Bears a pulsating 12-9 win. It was their sixth straight victory after a 3-5 start.

In the horrendous conditions at the Meadowlands, Thomas had missed one field goal attempt earlier in overtime and didn't get a chance to try another one due to a botched snap.

In 1979, the Bears needed a win over the Cardinals at Soldier Field and a Cowboys victory over the Redskins by a combined total of 33 points to earn a wildcard berth.

Opening up and emptying their playbook, the Bears employed reverses, a flea flicker, a fake field goal and a fake punt in crushing the Cardinals 42-6 on a snow-covered surface at Soldier Field.

The Bears had done their part, but their playoff hopes appeared dim at best a few hours later when the Redskins took a 34-21 lead over the Cowboys late in their game at Texas Stadium.

However, Dallas rallied for a stunning 35-34 victory as quarterback Roger Staubach threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:20, catapulting the Bears into the playoffs.

The euphoria that the Bears felt was in sharp contrast to the heartache they experienced early in the day after learning that team president George "Mugs" Halas, the only son of  legendary founder and owner George Halas, had died of a heart attack that morning at the age of 54.

In 1982, the Bears needed a win in their last game against the Buccaneers in Tampa to finish 4-5 and qualify as one of eight NFC teams for a playoff tournament in a strike-shortened season.

The Bears led 23-6 in the third quarter before the Buccaneers staged a wild rally. After Jimmie Giles caught touchdown passes of 35 and 31 yards to cut the deficit to 23-20, Bill Capece tied the game with a 40-yard field goal with :26 left in regulation and won it with a 33-yarder in overtime.

In 1994, the Bears backed into the playoffs, clinching a wildcard berth in the fourth quarter of an eventual 13-3 loss to the Patriots at Soldier Field when the Cowboys lost to the Giants.

The following year, the Bears beat the Eagles 20-14 at Soldier Field on the final day of the season but were eliminated from wildcard contention minutes after their game ended when the Falcons rallied to stun the 49ers 28-27 in Atlanta on a 37-yard touchdown pass with 1:45 to play.

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