NFL teams all want to play up the tough-guy angle that injuries are never an excuse for poor on-field performance.
While it's true that every NFL team has to deal with a certain amount of injuries on a year-to-year basis, to overlook or marginalize how injuries have impacted the Bears' defense is simply unfair.
If all the core members of the Bears' defense stayed healthy all season, would that group be as good as last year's unit?
But the defense still would have been respectable.
Remove Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman, Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton, defensive tackle Nate Collins, middle linebacker D.J. Williams, nickelback Kelvin Hayden and defensive tackle Stephen Paea from the equation for a large chunk of the season, and the results have been predictably subpar.
That's not meant to absolve the Bears from their other issues -- poor tackling, lack of a pass rush, lack of awareness and failure to keep their gap integrity -- but these injuries have forced the Bears to play certain individuals they did not expect to have to lean on when the season began.
There was a reason the Bears preferred to start veteran Williams at middle linebacker over second-round pick Jon Bostic in Week 1, despite Williams' missing most of the preseason with a calf injury.
The Bears' plan did not call for fourth-round pick Khaseem Greene to be the weakside linebacker. Zack Bowman is an experienced reserve cornerback, but Tillman is arguably the best defensive back in Bears history.
There shouldn't be any hands up.
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.