LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Riding high with a 7-1 record back in November, the Chicago Bears never thought at this point in the season they'd be in the midst of losing five of six and needing help to advance to the playoffs.
In fact, linebacker Lance Briggs acknowledged Thursday that "in my worst nightmare, this is where I imagined we'd be; in my very, very worst nightmare."
For the second consecutive year, a late-season collapse threatens to snuff out a berth in the postseason for the Bears, who have advanced to the playoffs only once in the last six years. In 2011 injuries to quarterback Jay Cutler and Matt Forte down the stretch contributed to the team losing five of its last six to finish 8-8 after a 7-3 start.
"Literally, this is my worst nightmare," Briggs said. "We still have a chance though to get into the playoffs. It can't get any worse than this I hope. Let's just focus on beating Arizona (on Sunday) and go from there."
Singular focus, however, doesn't erase that feeling of déjà vu the Bears are currently experiencing, especially from the defensive players, who continue to watch the offense struggle in loss after loss. While players on the defensive side seem reticent to place the blame on the offense, the fact is they've been incrementally more consistent than the offense over the past two years.
In four of the past six games, the Bears haven't scored more than 14 points.
"Yeah, it's kind of like two years in a row where you go on a little slide, and you're looking up at the scoreboard wondering, 'How did we get back in this position again?'," defensive tackle Henry Melton said. "It's kind of how the game works -- the NFL, a lot of great teams -- and sometimes the ball bounces one way and sometimes you get the break. But the past few games, we haven't been getting that, and we've just got to win these last two."
Cornerback Tim Jennings admitted to feeling surprised about the latest turn of events, but said the defense bears some responsibility for what's transpired because "we haven't been creating the turnovers we had in the first half of the season."
During the team's 7-1 start, the Bears generated 28 takeaways. But in the midst of this skid, which started Nov. 11 in a loss to the Houston Texans, the club's takeaways have fallen to just eight.
"Oh yeah, most definitely man (I'm surprised)," Jennings said. "We started off hot. That's just how the NFL goes, man. Everybody is good in this league. You can't be one of those teams that goes up and down because around this time in November, December, January, that's when teams start to get hot going into the playoffs. Unfortunately, we're not one of those teams. We have to now lean towards other teams declining so we can have a chance to get going."
It's a difficult situation to be in for the Bears, which face an inept Cardinals offense on Sunday that is similar to their own.
Briggs admitted that he could "give you a lot of motivational terms right now." But instead, he and the Bears will remain firmly entrenched in the reality of the situation, and look to change their fate.
"We've got to be at our best. It's a tournament now," Melton said. "We can't lose. We're trying to win six straight again like we did earlier in the year, get on a run and get our defense back to taking the ball away and scoring points for our offense."