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Sunday, December 30, 2012
Bears turn to Packers for some help

By Michael C. Wright



DETROIT -- The doors to the Chicago Bears locker room opened shortly after their 26-24 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, and anticipation may as well have been running down the walls as the club awaited its postseason fate.

Inside a locker room littered with discarded athletic tape and sweaty piles of socks and football pads, players clutched Freschetta pizza boxes in one hand and leaned against rolling luggage, eyes glued to old tube televisions broadcasting Sunday's matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings.

"They've already scored," backup quarterback Jason Campbell said.

Not a good sign for a Chicago team needing their most hated rival -- the Packers -- to deliver a victory over the Minnesota Vikings for it to advance to the NFC playoffs. If the Packers win, the Bears win the sixth seed for the NFC playoffs and will face the No. 3 seed (provided Green Bay wins) San Francisco 49ers in the first round at Candlestick Park.

If the Packers fall, Chicago's season comes to an end.

"We're gonna pay attention to the game," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "I'm sure it will be on in the bus going to the airplane. It will be on (in) the airplane. We'll keep our fingers crossed. Go Pack, go."

The Bears scored 16 points off four Lions turnovers (one interception and three fumbles) to close the regular season with a victory to move to 10-6. Matt Forte rushed for a game-high 103 yards -- just his third 100-yard performance all season -- and added a touchdown to lead an offense that sputtered despite the defense handing off prime opportunities with the turnovers and good field position.

"Everybody's afraid of the unknown, so it's just aggravating to have to wait to see what has to go down," Forte said. "We took care of our part. So that's all we can bank on right now."

Detroit committed to stopping Brandon Marshall in the passing game, and it forced quarterback Jay Cutler to lean on other receivers such as Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffery to fill the void in production. Bennett and Jeffery stepped up to the challenge. Bennett finished with a game-high 109 yards receiving and a touchdown, while Jeffery contributed 76 yards on four receptions.

"It was good to see (other receivers besides Marshall contributing)," Cutler said. "Brandon, he's a little banged up. It's been a long season for him. Some good things to take away from that game. Obviously, red zone is something we need to improve on though."

Of the four turnovers forced by the Chicago defense, the offense turned only one (Forte's 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter) into a touchdown. The club settled for field goals on the other three turnovers, generated by Tim Jennings, Julius Peppers, Major Wright and Eric Weems.

The Bears finished the game with a red zone efficiency of 25 percent, with the club scoring once in four trips inside the 20. In goal-to-go situations, the Bears converted only one of two opportunities.

So it's legitimate to ponder whether a performance such as Sunday's inspires confidence about Chicago's prospects should it advance to the playoffs, but that's something for Smith and the Bears to worry about another day.

"We have some things to correct, but we're always trying to get better," Smith said. "You can't be ... we scored enough points offensively to win the football game. This isn't the day to have that approach."

In a few hours, however, that could all change based on the outcome of Packers-Vikings.