In hindsight, it was a better season than anyone could have expected. But that won’t help ease the pain any Chicago Bears’ fans or players are feeling today.

“It’s a disappointing way to end our season,” Bears’ linebacker Brian Urlacher said after Sunday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers. “It’s not the way we wanted to end it.”

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It wasn’t until about week 10 of the season that some optimism began to form among Bears’ fans. Heading into the season many fans and analysts expected only five or six wins from the team. And after back-to-back Bears’ losses, at home, to the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks, many were prepared to throw in the towel on the 2010 season.

But the players were confident they could reach the postseason.

“No one expected us to be here, we know that,” Urlacher said, “it doesn’t make it any easier for us to lose this game. We expected to win this game, we expected to play good.”

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The expectations heading into the NFC Championship game were high. The Bears were coming off a dismantling of the Seahawks in the Divisional Round and looked like a team that could make it to the Super Bowl. Despite being the underdogs, locally there was plenty of confidence that the Bears would come through.

But in the end the Bears weren’t able to overcome their mistakes, and the late game surge was too little too late.

“Just too many mistakes on our part,” Urlacher said. “Give them all the credit, they made us make the mistakes, but they just played better than we did.”

This was a season of overcoming expectations.

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And the expectations for the 2011 season are now set pretty high.