The Bears didn’t belong in the playoffs because they didn’t beat either Philadelphia or Green Bay. Simple. And their epic struggles on defense meant that they likely might not have played more than one additional game even with a defensive stop on that last Green Bay drive.
But a bad run defense is hardly a gimme playoff disqualifier: New Orleans was 28th in rushing average and 19th in yardage defense. San Diego was 27th average rush. Indianapolis was 25th. New England got their bye ranking 30th in rushing yards allowed per game.
Then again, Green Bay was 29th, San Francisco was fourth, and the Packers’ inability to handle the 49ers’ rushing was fatal. Notably, however, it was less the run defense that couldn’t control Colin Kaepernick, but rather the pass rush that let him loose for 98 scrambling yards.
The Bears defeated Cincinnati and Green Bay (without Aaron Rodgers) but lost to Green Bay (with Rodgers), New Orleans and Philadelphia. If the defense had just played badly over the second half of the season, the Bears could well have had a first-round bye.