When they finally do the autopsy on the Bears' 2012 season, it won't take long to find the cause of death: Jay Cutler's broken thumb four week ago and Caleb Hanie's inability to simply steer the Bears to victory against medicore competition.
Hanie had another dreadful outing that put the blame squarely in the laps of all those who had a hand in making him the No. 2 quarterback behind Cutler. He was 10-for-23 for 111 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions -- two of which were returned for touchdowns.
''First off, we're disappointed in our team and how we played the last four weeks,'' coach Lovie Smith said when asked about Hanie's performance. ''Of course, Caleb is a large part of that. It's hard when you don't get more production form the quarterback position. And Caleb's been our guy -- great opportunity, but we haven't played as well as we need to.''
''I came out today and felt really confident,'' Hanie said. ''You just have to critique yourself not on did you win or did you lose, but what you're doing on every single play. When I feel like I'm getting better, I feel confident.''
The Bears' fourth straight loss dropped them to 7-7 with two weeks to play. The Bears' playoff hopes are still alive, but there chances are only slightly better than Sam Hurd's chances of winning another Ed Block Courage Award.
The Bears have to beat the Packers in Green Bay on Sunday night and the Vikings in Minneapolis on Jan. 1, while the Falcons (at New Orleans, vs. Tampa Bay) or the Lions (vs. San Diego, at Green Bay) have to lose twice, while the Seahawks (vs. San Francisco, at Arizona) lose once.
Hanie had a tough break early. He connected with Johnny Knox on a 17-yard gain to convert a third-and-six play. But Knox fumbled and suffered a back injury trying to retrieve the ball. He left the field on a spinal board and will have surgery to stabilize a vetebra, but is expected to still be able to return to the Bears next season.
Hanie threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to running back Kahlil Bell for a 14-7 lead. But he made two big mistakes. With the scored tied at 14, he was under pressure from a blitzing linebacker and tried to hit tight end Kellen Davis, but instead threw the ball directly to defensive end Red Bryant, who caught the ball at the Bears 20 and had a clear path to the end zone to give the Seahawks a 21-14 lead.
''[It] was just a bootleg and two guys came off the edge,'' Hanie said. ''I tried to get rid of it. The guy [linebacker K.J. Wright] got a little more of me than I anticipated and I forced a throw right to the defensive [end]. Some unfortunate luck there.''
Hanie struggled through the rest of the game -- he was sacked three times in the fourth quarter -- and ended his difficult day with an interception that cornerback Brandon Browner returned 42 yards for a touchdown to give the Seahawks a 38-14 lead with 5:00 to play. Josh McCown replaced Hanie after that.
''I was just trying to make something happen there at the end,'' Hanie said. ''Felt like the game was a little out of hand. I don't know how much time was left, five minutes, four minutes. They brought pressure, we adjusted to it. I missed the throw a little high.''
''I missed the throw a little high'' might be a fitting epitaph for Hanie's 2012 season. His passer rating of 33.3 wasn't even the worst of his four starts in place of Cutler. He had a 23.8 rating against the Chiefs two weeks ago, also at Soldier Field.
Asked about Hanie's decision making, Smith said, ''Pressing, whatever you want to call it, we're just not getting the job done. It all falls on the quarterback, but we as an offense have not made enough plays and he's part of that. Right now we're disappointed with everything. To single out Caleb, is probably unfair.''