Sunday, December 16, 2012
What next for Bears? Playoffs? Rebuild?
By Kevin Seifert
CHICAGO -- After losing five of their past six games, the Chicago Bears no longer hold their playoff destiny in their hands. They'll need some help to reach the postseason after a 21-13 loss Sunday to the Green Bay Packers, but the bigger question is how far-reaching their 1-5 slump will be for this franchise.
Has Lovie Smith coached his final game at Soldier Field? If he remains in the job, will the Bears change offensive coordinators again? Is it time to commence the rebuilding of a defense that gave up nearly 400 yards and forced only one turnover in a division-deciding game?
One of the few Bears players or coaches to address those big-picture questions was receiver Brandon Marshall, who was so distraught after the game that he paused twice to hold back tears. He directed his frank thoughts at the offense, but he used the word "accountable" on multiple occasions.
"Everybody involved in this offense should be held accountable, even if it means jobs," Marshall said. "It's been this way all year. There's no excuse. We still have two games left. There's still hope but at the same time, we need to be held accountable."
The Bears' offense has been about two players -- Marshall and quarterback Jay Cutler -- for the entire season, and on Sunday that pair wasn't enough to overcome a much more balanced Packers team. What that means for offensive coordinator Mike Tice is unclear given Smith's own precarious position as a head coach in danger of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six seasons.
It's only fair to note that so many Bears players were injured for this game that one of them, tailback Michael Bush, was in uniform by default. The Bears didn't, or couldn't, use him in a goal-line possession in the third quarter, instead running tailback Matt Forte for three consecutive plays even though he has never been a good runner in goal-to-go situations.
In the end, however, the Bears are in danger of becoming only the second team in the 23-year run of this playoff format to miss the postseason after a 7-1 start. They'll need to beat the Arizona Cardinals next week and the Detroit Lions the week after that, and even then they'll need help from both the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants -- at least one loss apiece -- to advance.
"We have to get to the playoffs a different way," Smith said.
If they do not? We're getting closer to finding the answer to that question.