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Monday, December 17, 2012
Lovie: The tournament has begun for us

By Jeff Dickerson

Lovie Smith
Lovie Smith brushed off talk of Sunday's loss to the Packers as a must-win game and is focusing on two wins to end the season.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Although his team no longer controls its playoff destiny, Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith stopped short of calling the Green Bay Packers' division-clinching 21-13 victory on Sunday at Soldier Field a must-win game.

"(Sunday's) game was a must-game for the NFC North championship," said Smith, whose Bears have dropped six in a row and eight of nine to their division rival. "But besides that, it wasn't a must game as far as what can happen with our season. This week we are to that must game. The tournament has begun for us."

After squandering a 7-1 start to the season, the Bears now find themselves at 8-6 and on the outside of the NFC playoff picture. The Bears sit at the No. 7 seed behind current wildcard qualifiers Seattle Seahawks (9-5) and Minnesota Vikings (8-6). The Dallas Cowboys (No. 8) and the New York Giants (No. 9) also boast identical 8-6 records but the Bears beat the Cowboys earlier in the season to give them the head-to-head tiebreaker. Dallas is ahead of New York based on their respective NFC East divisional records.

The Bears next travel to Arizona on Sunday where they will try to snap a three-game losing streak.

"There are a lot of 8-6 teams and that is the message," Smith said. "No, we haven't gone over every scenario and how it happens. We just know there are a lot of us in it. For us, it's about finishing 10-6. In order to get to 10-6, it's just about beating Arizona and getting to 9-6. It's just as simple as that. I think that's the approach most of the 8-6 teams will take."

The Bears appear to have the easiest path to the playoffs with road games against the Cardinals (5-9) and Detroit Lions (4-10) left on their schedule.

But Smith says he's not looking ahead.

"We're just looking to get to nine (victories)," Smith said. "Every year there are people in situations like this. Unless you have clinched a playoff position you're still having to win football games to get in. But you don't look at all the scenarios, you just look at what you need to do. And for us, we need to win a game this week and win another one the following week. It's as simple as that. There is nothing else we can do, except for that."

Smith said there will be no changes made to his coaching staff during the week. The offensive coaching staff, in particular, has come under fire for the club's inability to score points on offense. The Bears are averaging 14.2 points over their past six games.