Bears need help from Packers to make playoffs

The Chicago Bears might be rooting louder for Green Bay than

even the most loyal Packers fans this week.

They need an assist from their biggest rivals.

The Bears (9-6) kept themselves in contention with a 28-13 win

at Arizona on Sunday. Now, they need to win at Detroit this week

and that’s just the start.

”This time of year, you want to be in it, you want to be

relevant, and we are,” coach Lovie Smith said. ”We have a chance,

and that’s all you can hope for. It’s not an ideal situation that

we’re in. But hopefully we can take care of business and do all

that we can do. And from there, after we’ve gotten ourselves in

this position, that’s about all we can hope for.”

He’s banking on 10 wins being enough to get to the playoffs, and

it will be if they take out the Lions and the Packers beat or tie

Minnesota later in the day. They would also get in with a tie if

Green Bay beats the Vikings.

The fact that they’re facing more injuries heading into a

must-win regular-season finale with a playoff spot up in the air

doesn’t make it any easier.

Running back Matt Forte (right ankle) and free safety Chris

Conte (pulled hamstring) added their names to an already lengthy

list, and although Smith declined to provide updates on those

players, he did acknowledge depth at both positions is a

concern.

Forte vowed to be ready after injuring the ankle for the third

time this season. Kahlil Bell would figure to carry the load if he

isn’t, considering backup Michael Bush (ribs) went on injured

reserve last week.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Bears brought in help at

safety. The only backup to Conte and Major Wright is Anthony

Walters with Craig Steltz on IR because of a chest injury.

Meanwhile, the Bears could be getting some injured players

back.

It’s not clear if Brian Urlacher will be one of them, though. He

hasn’t practiced since he injured his hamstring against Seattle on

Dec. 2.

Smith is ”hopeful” the starting middle linebacker will return

this week but wouldn’t commit to it.

”Brian is a quick healer, and if he’s ready to go, he will,”

he said. ”He’s made a lot of progress. I’m not trying to run away

from the question. We have to get to the practice week and see

where he is.”

Smith wouldn’t say, either, if Gabe Carimi would stay at right

tackle if Jonathan Scott is ready to return from his hamstring

injury.

Either way, Smith liked what he saw from his offensive line

Sunday. The holes were there for Forte, who ran for 88 yards and a

touchdown on 12 carries before leaving the game, and so was the

protection for Jay Cutler. He was simply off-target, completing

just 12 of 26 passes for 146 yards. But with Zack Bowman recovering

a fumble for a touchdown and Charles Tillman returning an

interception for a score, Chicago had an easy time on Sunday.

Now, it needs some help.

The Bears find themselves in an awkward position, one they would

have never envisioned after a 7-1 start. But they lost control of

their playoff destiny by dropping five of six, fueling speculation

about Smith’s job security.

If they beat the Lions, they’ll have to root for the Packers – a

thought that would make George Halas cringe.

”It is kind of weird,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. ”That’s

just what it comes down to. So hopefully everything will work out

in our favor and we’ll be back to where we need to be.”

Would the Bears stay in Detroit and watch the Packers game?

”I hadn’t gotten that far,” Smith said. ”There are a lot of

other things that have priority before it. We will be interested.

All of that goes with us taking care of business first. So we’re

just going to concentrate on that. We hadn’t made any decisions

like that.”

Notes: The Bears signed veteran LS Patrick Mannelly to a

one-year contract extension through 2013 and waived WR Dane

Sanzenbacher on Monday.

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