DETROIT So close, so agonizingly close.
That was how the 2012 season finished for the Bears, who defeated the Detroit Lions 26-24 to finish 10-6 but lost out on their second playoff appearance since 2006 when the Green Bay Packers could not hold down the Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears needed the Vikings (10-6) to lose because with a win over the Packers, Minnesota owned the tiebreak advantage over the Bears by virtue of a 4-2 division record to the Bears 3-3. Instead, the Vikings won on a 29-yard field goal by Blair Walsh as time expired.
The San Francisco 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals to slip past Green Bay into the No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye. The Vikings now have to prove that their win in the Metrodome was no fluke: They face the Packers next weekend in a wild-card game in Green Bay.
Although evaluations of players and coaches are on-going throughout the season, meetings to arrive at decisions were not being held until after the season, including possible playoffs, concluded.
The first order of business will be to formalize a decision on the return of head coach Lovie Smith. From there, staff decisions and player calls will be made.
With the Minnesota win over Green Bay, that time is suddenly at hand.