JENSEN: You can only control so much — just ask Bears’ Mike Tice
In more than 30 years as an NFL player and coach, Mike Tice has experienced all the highs and lows and everything in between.
That includes a must-win game with playoff implications — the scenario the Bears face this Sunday when they meet the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
As head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Tice concluded the 2003 and 2005 seasons 9-7 and missed the playoffs, while the Vikings finished the 2004 season 8-8 and backed into the postseason. Despite losing the 2004 regular-season finale 21-18 to the Washington Redskins, the Vikings eked in because the New Orleans Saints helped them by eliminating the Carolina Panthers.
‘‘I recall those years,’’ the Bears offensive coordinator acknowledged, though he noted he hasn’t brought any of those seasons up to his players. ‘‘But the main thing we can focus on is winning and taking care of our half. We can’t worry about the other part.’’
In 2004, after a 5-1 start, the Vikings lost seven of their final 10, including two to the Green Bay Packers by a field goal apiece.
‘‘We lost two heartbreakers to them in the regular season,’’ said then-Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, now serving in the same capacity for the Lions. ‘‘They came to the Metrodome on Christmas Eve and beat us on a 90-yard drive.’’
But the Vikings got the ultimate revenge, beating the Packers 31-17 in the wild-card game at Lambeau Field.
‘‘That was the shining moment of the season,’’ Linehan said. ‘‘We probably played our best game as a team that day.’’
That’s what the Bears are counting on, especially from an underachieving offense. The unit has been largely responsible for the Bears threatening to become just the second of 38 teams to start 7-1 and miss the postseason, according to STATS.
Given all that he’s been through, Tice isn’t panicking.
‘‘I don’t want to be uptight,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s the worst thing that I can be is uptight.’’
The 2004 Vikings didn’t make a long postseason run. They were eliminated 27-14 by the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional playoffs.
Though the Vikings finished 9-7 the next year, Tice was fired after a 34-10 win over the Bears in the regular-season finale.
Ultimately, the Bears just want a clean slate, which the postseason would provide. The Packers’ path to the championship two years ago — sneaking into the postseason by beating the Bears, then catching fire and eliminating the Bears in the NFC Championship Game before beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl — hasn’t been forgotten.
‘‘At the end of the day, you want to get in the show. You want to have a chance,’’ Tice said. ‘‘We can’t control our own destiny, but we can control our half of it, which is winning a football game.’’