Bears notebook: Coach Lovie Smith focused on Cardinals, not on playoffs
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org December 17, 2012 11:19PM
Bears head coach Lovie Smith on the field during warmups before the Chicago Bears fall 23-17 in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday December 2, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
Updated: January 19, 2013 6:22AM
Even with the Bears’ playoff chances — and perhaps his future as their coach — on the line, Lovie Smith still is taking it one game at a time.
The Bears (8-6) need to win their final two regular-season games — at the Cardinals (5-9) on Sunday and at the Lions (4-10) on Dec. 30 — and get just a little help to make the playoffs. The Bears will make the playoffs at 10-6 if the Vikings (8-6) and Giants (8-6) lose one of their final two games.
The Vikings visit the Texans (12-2) on Sunday and host the Packers (10-4) on Dec. 30. The Giants visit the Ravens (9-5) on Sunday and host the Eagles (4-10) on Dec. 30.
With so much at stake, you’d think Smith would have every scenario mapped out. But even though Smith acknowledged Monday the Bears are in a ‘‘must-win’’ situation, he insisted he was unaware of the playoff scenarios and was focused only on the Cardinals.
‘‘We haven’t gone over every scenario and how it [works out],’’ Smith said. ‘‘We just know there are a lot of us in it, and for us it’s about finishing 10-6. It’s about beating Arizona and getting to 9-6 . . . and then win the following week. There’s nothing else we can do except that.’’
Smith said he hasn’t considered making any staff changes, even though the Bears are ranked 29th in total offense and passing.
It has been speculated they might benefit by having quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates handle the offensive play-calling, with offensive coordinator Mike Tice concentrating on the offensive line.
But maybe in a concession to the Bears’ fall from 7-1 to 8-6, Smith didn’t dismiss the question out of hand.
‘‘We’ll have our same coaching staff that we had [against the Packers] in
their same jobs this week,’’ Smith said.
Despite their loss to the Packers, the Bears at least slowed the spate of injuries that has greased the skids for the last month. Right tackle Jonathan Scott left in the second half with a hamstring injury, but he indicated he might play Sunday against the Cardinals.
Defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (knee) was put on season-ending injured reserve, and offensive tackle Cory Brandon was promoted to the 53-man roster.
Smith is hopeful several injured players will return this week or next. Among them are cornerback Tim Jennings (shoulder), defensive tackle Henry Melton (chest), wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion), defensive end Shea McClellin (knee) and linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring).