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Return to NFC title game would put Bears on uncommon ground

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Aug. 03, 2011 @ 10:51 a.m. ET
By Dan Parr

Recent history has not been very kind to teams in the situation the Bears are facing this year — coming off a loss in the NFC championship game.

The Eagles are the only NFC club in the past decade to make the playoffs a season after being knocked out of the conference's title game. They have done it four times (the seasons of 2002, ’03, ’04 and ’09) under head coach Andy Reid and are the only NFC team in the past 11 years to finish with a winning record the season after getting eliminated in the NFC championship.

As for recent history in the AFC, the results have been better for those coming off conference championship losses. Over the past decade, the Jets, Patriots and Steelers all have returned to the AFC title game the season after losing it. The Steelers were the only one of the three that went on to win the Super Bowl after falling one step short of making it to the big game a season earlier.

The Packers, who ended the Bears' playoff run last season, are the last team NFC team to win the Super Bowl in the season following a loss in the NFC title game. They did it in Super Bowl XXXI in 1997, beating the Patriots.

For the Bears, just putting together back-to-back winning seasons would be an accomplishment. It has been a rare feat for the franchise since the mid-1980s. Since 1992, Chicago has put together back-to-back winning seasons twice (1994-95 and 2005-06). The Bears have gone to the NFC championship game, which was established in 1970, in back-to-back years only once (the 1984 and ’85 seasons).

We don't point these records out to say the Bears are bound to fail before the first game is played this season. It's only to provide context.

They do have a daunting early-season schedule, however, facing the Falcons, Saints and Packers — all playoff teams last season — in the first three weeks. While history might not doom them to a less successful season, a slow start certainly could.

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