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History of Bears battling for playoff spot in finale


Sunday will mark the ninth time since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger that the Bears have had a chance to secure a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season.

In those eight games, they are 4-4. They've won twice and made the playoffs; won twice and failed to qualify for the postseason; lost once and earned a playoff berth; and lost three times and failed to reach the postseason.

Here's a recap of those eight scenarios:


In a winner-take-all Week 17 battle for the NFC North championship at Soldier Field, the Bears lost to the Packers 33-28 as Aaron Rodgers threw a game-winning 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb on fourth-and-8 with :38 remaining in regulation.

The seesaw contest, which featured five lead changes, was the first for Rodgers since he sustained a broken collarbone eight weeks earlier in a Monday night loss to the Bears in Green Bay. With the Week 17 defeat, the Bears finished Marc Trestman's first year as coach with an 8-8 record.


The Bears entered Week 17 needing a win over the Lions in Detroit coupled with a Vikings loss to the visiting Packers to claim a wild card berth. The Bears did their part, defeating Detroit 26-24 as Jay Cutler passed for 257 yards and one touchdown, Matt Forte rushed for 103 yards and one TD and Earl Bennett caught five passes for 109 yards and one TD.

Unfortunately, the Vikings edged the Packers 37-34 on Blair Walsh's 29-yard field goal as time expired, eliminating the Bears despite a 10-6 record. Several Bears players watched Walsh's field goal on their cell phones while riding buses back to Halas Hall after landing at O'Hare. The Bears fired coach Lovie Smith the next day. It remains the only time in the Super Bowl era that the Bears failed to make the playoffs when winning at least 10 games.


After registering back-to-back overtime wins over the Saints and Packers to keep their postseason hopes alive, the Bears entered Week 17 needing a road victory over the Texans coupled with losses by the Buccaneers to the Raiders and the Cowboys to the Eagles to earn a wild card berth.

Tampa Bay and Dallas both lost their games, but the Bears blew an early 10-0 lead in a 31-24 defeat to the Texans, ending their season with a 9-7 record. Receiver Andre Johnson led Houston to the victory with 10 receptions for 148 yards and two touchdowns.


The Bears entered the final day of the season needing a win over the playoff-bound Eagles at Soldier Field coupled with a Falcons loss to the NFC West champion 49ers in Atlanta to earn a wild card berth.

The Bears did their part, beating Philadelphia 20-14 as Keith Jennings caught two touchdown passes from Erik Kramer and Alonzo Spellman registered three sacks. But despite being a 10-point underdog, the Falcons shocked the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers 28-27 as Bobby Hebert threw a 37-yard TD pass to Terance Mathis with 1:45 remaining—keeping the 9-7 Bears out of the playoffs.


The Bears entered their season finale at Soldier needing a win over the Patriots or a single loss by the Cowboys, Cardinals or 49ers to earn the third and final wild card berth in the NFC. The Bears lost to New England 13-3, but learned late in their game that they had secured a playoff spot because the Giants had defeated the Cowboys.

The Bears finished 9-7 in Dave Wannstedt's second season as coach after losing three of their final four games. They stunned the NFC Central champion Vikings 35-18 in the first round of the playoffs in Minnesota before losing to the eventual Super Bowl champion 49ers 44-15 in the divisional round in San Francisco.


During a strike-shortened season during which teams played only nine regular-season games, the top eight clubs in each conference made the playoffs (instead of seeding via division standings like usual). The Bears entered their finale with a chance to earn a spot in the 16-team tournament, needing a win over the Buccaneers in Tampa coupled with a loss by either the Lions to the Packers or the 49ers to the Rams.

They received the help they needed with Los Angeles defeating San Francisco. But the Bears blew leads of 13-0 in the second quarter and 23-6 in the third period in a 26-23 overtime loss to the Buccaneers. Bill Capece kicked field goals of 40 yards to tie the game with :26 left in regulation and 33 yards to win it with 11:46 remaining in overtime. With a win, the Bears would have made the playoffs with a 4-5 record; instead they were sent home with a 3-6 mark.


The Bears entered the final day of the regular season with two routes to the playoffs: They would win the NFC Central with a win over the St. Louis Cardinals coupled with a Buccaneers loss to the Chiefs. The second path was much more improbable: they would earn a wild card berth with a victory at Soldier Field and a Washington loss to the Cowboys by a combined total of at least 33 points.

The Buccaneers slammed the door on the first possibility, edging the Chiefs 3-0 in a monsoon in Tampa. The Bears led 21-0 at halftime when they found out that the Buccaneers had won, meaning they needed to blow out the Cardinals. They did just that on a snow-covered field, calling a flea-flicker, fake field goal and fake punt in an eventual 42-6 thrashing.

The Bears had surpassed the 33-point differential all by themselves, but they still needed a Cowboys win over Washington in Dallas. Things looked bleak when Washington took a 34-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter. But Dallas staged a miraculous rally. With Bears players listening to the game on transistor radios in the parking lot under the stands at Soldier Field, Roger Staubach threw two touchdown passes in the final 2:20—including an 8-yarder to Tony Hill with just :39 remaining—to lift the Cowboys to a stunning 35-34 victory and send the Bears to the playoffs.


The Bears needed a win over the Giants on a slushy ice-covered field at the Meadowlands in the season finale to earn a wild card berth. After missing two field-goal attempts and an extra point due in large part to the sloppy conditions, Bob Thomas booted a 28-yard field goal with :04 left in overtime to give the Bears a dramatic 12-9 win.

The victory was the sixth straight for the Bears, who rebounded from a 3-5 start to finish 9-5 and earn their first playoff berth in 14 years—since winning the 1963 NFL championship.