Hub Arkush: So what did we learn by the Bears backing into the playoffs?

They’re not as bad as some contend, but that doesn’t mean they’re anywhere near good enough

Does anyone out there beside me remember Stealers Wheel?

I ask about the one-hit wonders of the ’70′s because after the Chicago Bears’ 35-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday I keep hearing “Stuck in the middle with you.” I can’t get it out of my head.

As the Bears now prepare for their Wild Card trip to New Orleans next weekend, that is exactly where they find themselves, with no clear path to what makes the most sense next.

They needed a win over the NFC’s best team Sunday to establish themselves as a legit playoff club with a chance to do some damage in January.

That’s not who they are.

But don’t let the final score fool you.

They didn’t embarrass themselves either as they did five weeks ago at Lambeau Field. They competed with the Packers with an excellent game plan and executed to near perfection for 50 minutes. Were it not for a couple of huge mistakes by youngsters Cole Kmet and Duke Shelley, and Chuck Pagano or whoever was responsible for a blitz that left Danny Trevathan in man-to-man coverage on Marquez Valdes-Scantling, they very well might have beat Green Bay.

I am not making excuses for the Bears.

They lost because they deserved to lose, and the Packers certainly are the better team.

But they also proved they aren’t hopeless. After the game we are left with even more questions than answers over what will serve them best going forward.

With 11:22 to play, the Bears had held the Packers scoreless in the second half, and trailing 21-16, had held the ball for more than 8 minutes with a 14-play drive for 51 yards to the Packers’ 25 and fourth down and less than a yard.

They’d already converted four fourth downs in four tries but went to the well once too often with a play call that left anyone who knows the game shaking their head.

As Trubisky said after the game, “That fourth-and-1 was really the turning point for us. When the game was 21-16, we were going down to score. We were there to compete, but we got to be able to finish games.”

Why Bill Lazor elected to roll Trubisky out and try to throw to Allen Robinson on the sideline for the foot and a half or so he needed we may never know.

Nagy was a bit mysterious when discussing the call.

“And then the fourth-and-1 situation, it’s just fourth-and-1, we’ve got to get that,” he said. “I’m not going to get into the why part because that’s just for me and the coaches and the players. That one bothers me.”

It bothered him that he didn’t overrule the horrible play call? It bothered him that either Allen Robinson or Jimmy Graham ran the wrong route? It bothered him because...?

All we know is to that point the Bears had a 14-minute time-of-possession advantage, they had won the physical battle, the ground game was working again, and while that call didn’t cost them the game, it certainly ended it.

You have to live with mistakes from youngsters like Shelley getting eaten up all day and Kmet fumbling at his own 23, setting up the Packers second touchdown. But why your horses like Robinson, Graham, Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and others couldn’t make the plays to pick them up leaves us wondering again, do they build around those guys going forward? Can they get back to where they were or is it time for major changes?

First up there is a playoff trip to New Orleans to face a Saints team they appeared to have beat twice in overtime 10 weeks ago before finding a way to lose.

Ryan Pace will be returning to his roots along with Nagy, Trubisky and another shot at redemption, rebirth or release.

After that, perhaps decisions will be made.

But for at least another week these Bears will remain truly stuck in the middle with you, and in the NFL there really aren’t any more frustrating or aggravating places to be.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media