PRO FOOTBALL

It's sink or swim for struggling Bears

2012-12-10T18:00:00Z 2013-07-25T19:43:24Z It's sink or swim for struggling BearsAndrew Seligman AP Sports Writer nwitimes.com
December 10, 2012 6:00 pm  • 

LAKE FOREST | Coach Lovie Smith realizes the Bears no longer control their fate in the NFC North. Their playoff hopes still are in their hands, though.

That's something Smith emphasized Monday on the heels of an ugly loss at Minnesota that knocked the Bears (8-5) out of first place in the division.

They are free falling for the second straight year with Green Bay coming to Soldier Field on Sunday.

If the Packers (9-4) win, they clinch the division and a wild card is no sure thing for Chicago. The Bears were sixth in the NFC after Sunday's loss, with Washington, Dallas and Minnesota a game behind them.

"We need a little bit of help as far as the division is concerned," Smith said. "But we do control our playoff hopes."

The Bears could get into the playoffs with fewer than 11 wins, but it might come down to tiebreakers.

"The pressure we're feeling right now is on our performances," Smith said. "Improving, it's on us. We have the Packers coming in and that's enough right there for all of our thoughts to just go on them."

Against Minnesota, quarterback Jay Cutler had to leave in the fourth quarter because of a sore neck.

Cutler took a hit to the head by Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen that drew a penalty, but he said afterward his neck was bothering him all afternoon and worsened as the game went on. Cutler finished that drive before Jason Campbell took over, but he doesn't expect to miss any more time.

He said Monday during his weekly appearance on Chicago's WMVP-AM 1000 that "unless something drastic happens, absolutely" he will be ready to play against the Packers.

Kicker Robbie Gould also strained his left calf during warmups. He did handle extra points and an onside kick but ceded kickoff duties to punter Adam Podlesh.

The Bears did not attempt any field goals, so it's not clear if Gould or Podlesh would have handled them. Smith did not rule out bringing in kickers for tryouts this week in case Gould isn't ready.

The Bears could point to a long list of injuries in recent weeks, with Brian Urlacher (hamstring) possibly out for the remainder of the season and cornerback Tim Jennings (shoulder) sidelined against Minnesota. But that only partially explains the poor execution on both sides of the ball, the lack of big plays on defense.

"Right now we just have to win out," receiver Brandon Marshall said. "It doesn't matter. Forget the Xs and Os, forget the first 11, 12 games of the season. All of that doesn't matter at this point.

"We have the guys in this locker room that can get it done and we have to get it done."

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