CHICAGO -- Chicago talked all week about controlling its own destiny, but now it's time for a new motivational method for head coach Lovie Smith after the club dropped its fifth in six outings with a 21-13 defeat Sunday at home to the Green Bay Packers.
The Bears no longer control their own playoff fate, and if they win out, there's still a chance they could miss the postseason for the fourth time in five years.
Let's look closer:
What it means: The Bears put their postseason hopes in serious jeopardy with the loss to the Packers, and they no longer control their own destiny. The best record Chicago can hope for now is 10-6, and that might not be good enough for it to advance to the postseason because there are several teams, including the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys in the mix to finish with the same record. We already know for sure that Seattle holds a tiebreaker over the Bears by virtue of its 23-17 win at Soldier Field on Dec. 2.
According to the ESPN NFL Playoff machine, if Chicago and Minnesota finish with the same record, the Vikings receive the sixth seed. What's worse for the Bears is that since Green Bay has already clinched the NFC North, there's a good chance it will rest key players when it faces Minnesota in the regular-season finale, which would give the Vikings a better shot at winning.
Rough outing for rookie WR: Bears rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery might need to first establish himself in the NFL before referees start to give him favorable calls. Against the Packers, officials called flags on Jeffery three times for pushing off defenders, with the last coming with 2:58 left to play. It negated what would have been a 36-yard reception.
Interestingly, veteran Brandon Marshall typically gets favorable rulings in similar situations.
Jeffery's performance seemed typical of the season he's endured, a rough one. After getting off to a strong start, Jeffery fractured his hand and missed four weeks. Then when Jeffery returned to the lineup on Nov. 19 at San Francisco, he suffered a knee injury that required surgery and two more weeks of rehabilitation.
Big special teams play: Despite Chicago fielding a beat-up special teams unit against the Packers, the group made plays to keep the Bears in contention.
With 8:11 left to play, Adam Podlesh punted to the Green Bay 30 with Randall Cobb fielding the ball. Cobb attempted to lateral to Jeremy Ross, who dropped the pass thrown across the field. Anthony Walters scooped up the loose ball to give the Bears possession at the Green Bay 16.
After three fruitless downs, Olindo Mare turned Walters' recovery into a 34-yard field goal that made the score 21-13.
In all, Tillman has played a role in 71 takeaways (39 forced fumbles, 32 interceptions) and is one of just two players since 1991 to force 30 fumbles over his career, in addition to picking off at least 30 passes.
What's next: Given the injury situation, there's a good chance the Bears could treat this week similar to how they handled preparation for the game against the Packers. Normally the week of practice starts on Wednesday, but the Bears didn't work out on that day, and elected to rest several players. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Bears use a similar plan this week as they prepare to face the Arizona Cardinals for the first of consecutive road trips to close out the season.