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Lovie Smith says Bears have no room for error in last 5 games

Coach Lovie Smith likes thBears 7-4 control their playoff destiny as wild card. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP

Coach Lovie Smith likes that the Bears, at 7-4, control their playoff destiny as a wild card. | Charles Rex Arbogast~AP

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Updated: December 30, 2011 8:20AM



With the Bears in a precarious playoff position at 7-4, and knowing quarterback Jay Cutler is out indefinitely because of a broken right thumb, not even coach Lovie Smith is taking them one at a time.

‘‘We feel like we need to win out,’’ Smith said at his news conference Monday at Halas Hall after the Bears returned from Oakland 25-20 losers to the Raiders. ‘‘I really like that we control our own destiny. [But] we’ve got to take care of business. There’s no room for error.’’

With five games to play, the Packers (11-0) and 49ers (9-2) are virtual locks to make the playoffs. The Bears have the No. 1 wild-card spot in the NFC, holding a tiebreaker over the Falcons (7-4), whom they beat 30-12 in Week 1. The Lions (7-4) and Giants (6-4) also figure in what looks to be a four-team race for the two wild-card spots — with the underachieving Eagles (4-7) on the fringe.

Not that Smith is looking too far ahead.

‘‘A part of winning out is just winning this week against Kansas City,’’ he said.

After Caleb Hanie struggled in his first NFL start against the Raiders, the game against the Chiefs (4-7) at noon Sunday at Soldier Field is not only a “must-win,” but a “must-look-good” situation. It’s hard to see the Bears as serious playoff contenders if Hanie doesn’t show significant improvement after he threw three interceptions and had a 56.9 passer rating (18-for-36, 254 yards, two touchdowns) against the Raiders.

The Chiefs are 20th in total defense (304 yards per game) and 24th in points allowed (24.1), and they’re last in the NFL with 13 sacks in 11 games.

Hanie threw all three interceptions in the first half. But he was 11-for-19 for 182 yards and threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kellen Davis in the second half (excluding two spikes) — a 107.8 passer rating.

‘‘That’s normally how you expect a guy to start off when he doesn’t have a lot of time [with the first team],’’ Smith said of Hanie’s performance. ‘‘But after that, we settled down. When you’re playing for the first time, there has to be a first part we need to get through for him to see, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’ He had a lot of confidence going in, but you need to get in a game to really see that, and I think he was able to do that.’’



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