Monday, December 24, 2012
Lovie hopes for healthy squad vs. Lions
By Jon Greenberg
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Going into the last week of the regular season, the Chicago Bears find themselves on the precipice. A win and they might make the playoffs. A loss and a regime change could be a week away.
The Bears have to beat Detroit at Ford Field to have a chance.
"This time of year you want to be in it, you want to be relevant," Bears coach Lovie Smith said Monday at Halas Hall after his team's 28-13 win in Arizona the previous day. "And we are. We have a chance. That's all you can hope for. It's not an ideal situation that we're in. Hopefully we can take care of business and do all we can do. ... If you look at the history of the league, most of the time you get to 10 wins, you have a chance of getting in and we're going to bank on that."
Of course, the Bears (9-6) need help, even with 10 wins. The Green Bay Packers have to beat the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field for the Bears to get the sixth seed in the NFC. With a win, the Vikings would hold the divisional record tiebreaker over Chicago. The Packers have incentive to win, because they would get the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.
The Bears play Detroit at noon CST and will be able to watch their fate unfold, as the Packers-Vikings game was moved from the noon slot to 3:25 p.m. Will the Bears stay in Detroit to watch the game?
"Someone asked them this morning on the radio," Smith said. "I haven't gotten that far. There's a lot of other things that have priority before. We will be interested. Again, all of that goes with us taking care of business first."
First order of business will be to limit Calvin Johnson, who set a single-season receiving yards record this week with 1,892 yards, eclipsing Jerry Rice's mark of 1,848 yards set in 1995.
The Bears held Johnson to a season-worst performance in their 13-7 win on Oct. 22: three catches (on 11 targets) for 34 yards. Johnson had 46 yards the next game, but in his last eight games, the Lions receiver has 1,254 yards and four touchdowns.
"That was a long time ago," Smith said of the Bears' success against Johnson. "I didn't even realize that until you told me. I know we played him pretty well then. I wish that could help us this week, but I don't think anything that's happened those other 15 games has a lot to do with what's going on now. We were able to see him play a little bit Saturday night, and a guy that has many records, and I know he's trying to get 2,000 yards, it'll be a big challenge."
Bears cornerback Tim Jennings had a successful return from missing two games with a shoulder injury, Smith said, but he didn't have any new information on his injured players. Safety Chris Conte left with a pulled hamstring muscle and Matt Forte hurt his troublesome right ankle for the third time this season. Both safety and running back are thin at positional depth, with Craig Steltz and Michael Bush both recently placed on injured reserve. Forte told reporters in Arizona he will play this week.
Smith said they have "a couple options" if Conte can't play.
"At least one option I'm thinking of," he said.
Smith wouldn't say if former Bears safety Chris Harris, currently a free agent, was such an option.
But the Bears coach, who is heading into the final year of his contract and could be on the chopping block, is hopeful to get a host of injured players back this week, including Brian Urlacher.
"Henry Melton, Brian Urlacher, Jonathan Scott, some of those players, we'll be closer to getting some of those back," Smith said. "We'll need everybody this week."