Bears Game Day: Help wanted in playoff push

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Chicago Bears were out of control Sunday: They needed to win and get some help to stay in the hunt for an NFC wild-card berth.

The Minnesota Vikings pulled off a significant road upset Sunday, beating the Houston Texans 23-6 at Reliant Stadium to improve to 9-6. The Vikings’ victory means the Bears (8-6) will be eliminated from the postseason race if they lose to the Cardinals. Entering Sunday, there were remote possibilities the Bears could make the playoffs at 9-7, but those options closed with the Vikings' win at Texas.

So, the Bears must win here and against the Detroit Lions next Sunday at Ford Field in order to have a chance to reach the postseason and avoid becoming the first team since the 1996 Washington Redskins to start a season 7-1 and not make the playoffs

When the day began Sunday, the Bears still held out hope of possibly earning a fifth or sixth seed in the NFC postseason tournament, depending on the outcome of games involving the Vikings, Redskins, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, all of whom had 8-6 records along with the Bears. The Redskins beat the Eagles 27-20, while the Cowboys were trailing the New Orleans Saints 31-17 late in the fourth quarter.

“We have to win out, we realize that,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We know the road that we have to go to achieve our goal and that’s on the road, a long road trip you could say. None of that matters, though, without getting a win this week.”

The Cardinals (5-9) entered Sunday having lost nine of their last 10 games. Last Sunday’s 38-10 win over the Lions snapped a nine-game skid. The Bears have been similarly inept, dropping five of their previous six.

Sunday’s game figured to be a referendum on the talent and leadership ability of quarterback Jay Cutler, who had come up short in key games earlier this season. While the Cardinals are a far cry from the talented Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks teams the Bears faced, they still represented a signature opponent in the season when Cutler has to be a key factor.

“Winning is contagious and unfortunately losing is too,” Bears Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall said. “And it’s all about a mind-set. I look back on teams I’ve been on the past six years and, you know, I’ve never been to the playoffs. So, I understand as someone sitting back and watching and observing ... I understand what losing is and I understand what winning is. And this is a winning team. This is a winning organization.

“So that’s what really frustrates me and other guys, you know, when you look at what has been going on these past few weeks. It’s that this is a winning team. You have high-character guys, you have guys that fight, you have guys that respond to adversity the right way. You have guys that work hard. So, you know, we’re close. We’re close and we have the guys, we have the guys upstairs and in the locker room to really get it done and we just need to do it.”

Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt knew his team had no playoff motivation, but he didn't think they would mail it in the rest of the way.

“If you have the right players, they’re professionals, they work hard,” he said. “They want to win and I think that we’ve got enough young players that are trying to find their way and show that they can play. That’s part of it. It’s not easy from the standpoint of everything’s geared to making the playoffs and winning your division, and then when that hope is not there then you’ve got to rely on the way you prepare and the consistency that you’ve established. So it was good to see our team play the way they did last week after the loss the week before to Seattle, and it speaks a lot about the kind of guys that we have.”

The Cardinals and Bears face off for the 89th time Sunday in a series that dates to 1920 when the Cardinals franchise was in Chicago.


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