Injuries have done more damage to the Bears in one week than they did to them all of last season during their major-injury-free run to the NFC championship game.
First it was starting OLG Chris Williams suffering a season-ending wrist injury against the Lions on Nov. 13. Then rookie Gabe Carimi, who is recovering from knee surgery, joined him on injured reserve just a few days later, although he had not played since first injuring the knee in Week Two.
Williams and Carimi make up the Bears' last two first-round picks and 40 percent of their Week One starting offensive line. They will be missed, but those losses paled in comparison to the news that QB Jay Cutler would be out until at least very late in the regular season, and possibly longer, after breaking the thumb on his throwing hand while trying to make a tackle during an interception return during the Bears' win over the Chargers.
Those injuries leave the Bears wounded and it challenges an offensive coaching staff, which was already dealing with personnel deficiencies in certain areas, to be more creative and do more with less.
In the year of high-flying passing games, Cutler's numbers don't exactly jump off the page. Cutler had not thrown for more than 300 yards once during Chicago's five-game winning streak, but he was playing some of the best football of his career before sustaining the injury.
Going from Cutler to Caleb Hanie — who will make his first career start Sunday against the Raiders — under center puts more pressure on the defense and special teams to keep Hanie out of situations where he needs to throw the Bears back into games.
Cutler's absence should not, however, be enough to end the Bears' season after 16 games.
The Bears would be one of the two NFC wild-card teams if the season ended today, and that's exactly what they should be when time runs out in Week 17 at the Metrodome after their game against the Vikings. There are games against Kansas City, Denver, Seattle and Minnesota remaining on the schedule, and winning three of those should be enough to get into the postseason. The Bears should win all four, though, and I don't see an 11-win team not making the playoffs.
If Mike Martz doesn't coach up Hanie to the point where the offense is decent and the defense doesn't shut down the quarterbacks — Tyler Palko, Tim Tebow, Tarvaris Jackson and Christian Ponder — from the four teams mentioned above, then the Bears could miss out on the playoffs, but it will be the result they deserve.
Follow Dan Parr on Twitter