The season started off with the club trying to rebound from a 5–11 season under now sophomore coach Lovie Smith. Smith was eager to lead his young team to a Super Bowl, but a preseason injury to starting quarterback Rex Grossman spelled disaster for the Bears.
The Bears began the season on a negative note, winning only one of their first four games. Despite their poor passing game, the Bears managed to win eight consecutive games through a perseverant defense and running game. The Bears eventually clinched a playoff berth on Christmas Day against the Green Bay Packers. However, in their first playoff game in almost four years, Carolina Panthers upset the Bears, 29–21.
Rookie running backCedric Benson held out of training camp over a contract dispute until just before the final preseason game. His absence in camp meant that Thomas Jones would be the starting running back going into the regular season.
Despite all these setbacks, the Bears were still hopeful because franchise middle linebackerBrian Urlacher had made it through the preseason in good health, unlike the year before when he battled injuries all season, beginning with a pulled hamstring on the first day of training camp.
Q3 - CAR - 2:07 - 39 yd TD pass from Jake Delhomme to Steve Smith (Kasay kick) (CAR 23-14)
Q4 - CHI - 13:23 - Jason McKie 1 yd TD run (Gould kick) (CAR 23-21)
Q4 - CAR - 8:04 - 1 yd TD pass from Jake Delhomme to Kris Mangum (kick failed) (CAR 29-21)
The Bears would host their first playoff game since the 2001 season against the red hot Panthers, fresh off a victory over Eli Manning and the New York Giants.
Things were bad from the beginning for the Bears, who allowed a 58 yard Jake Delhomme TD pass to Steve Smith just 55 seconds into the game. CornerbackCharles Tillman slipped on the play, and it would only signify things to come the rest of the game for the vaunted Bears defense.
The Panthers would add 2 field goals to their total before the Bears would get their first points.
The Bears offense got off to a slow start, having their first 5 possessions end in punts. Their first score came midway through the second quarter, when running backAdrian Peterson scored a touchdown on a 1 yard run. The Bears had opted to go for it on 4th down to get the score, cutting the Carolina lead to 13-7. Before the half expired, the Panthers' John Kasay kicked a 37 yard field goal with 5 seconds left in the half, extending the lead to 16-7.
The Bears offense came out at halftime firing on all cylinders, mounting an 8 play, 68 yard drive to close to within 2 points of the Panther lead. It was a balanced drive that led to the score, with the Bears running and passing 5 times each, with Rex Grossman capping the drive with a 1 yard TD pass to Desmond Clark.
The spark provided by the offense would be short lived, as midway through the 3rd quarter, Delhomme went deep to Steve Smith again, this time for a 39 yard touchdown that put the Panthers up 23-14. Chris Thompson, a reserve defensive back for the Bears, fell down on the play to let Smith slip past him.
The Bears would manage to score one more time on a drive that started with 2:07 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Grossman would complete 3 of 4 passes on the drive, and running backThomas Jones almost scored on a 7 yard run. After a replay challenge by Carolina, however, the officials reversed the call to say that Jones had fumbled into the endzone, which would have resulted in a Carolina touchback. However, a major facemask penalty on Carolina defensive backMarlon McCree would give Chicago a first down at the Carolina 3. From there, fullbackJason McKie would rumble in for a touchdown, making the score 23-21 in favor of the Panthers.
The Panthers would extend their lead once more with a 1 yard Delhomme pass to tight endKris Mangum. Kasay would miss the extra point try though, making the Panther lead 29-21.
When the Bears offense would start moving the ball once more, disaster struck for the Bears, as on a 3rd-and-10 play from the Carolina 37 yard line, Grossman threw an ill advised interception to Ken Lucas. It appeared that the play clock had expired before the snap, which would have resulted in a Chicago 5 yard penalty rather than an interception. The officials, however, apparently didn't see that the clock had expired, and the interception would stand, resulting in a gut wrenching loss for the Bears.