(WSCR) – The Bears went from playing their best football of the season, to playing their worst game of the season. Despite the 36-7 loss to the Patriots, the Bears can still lock up the division, and a playoff berth, with a win over the Vikings and a Green Bay loss.
The Chicago Bears are trying to forget about their blowout loss at home to New England.
One sure way to let it go: With a win in their next game – Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings – the Bears would clinch the NFC North title if the Green Bay Packers lose to the Patriots a day earlier.
“We know what is in front of us,” center Olin Kreutz said. “We can win the NFC North. We know that’s still in our hands and we’re still the No. 2 seed in the NFC. So we still have everything in front of us.
The Bears (9-4) were eager to focus on the divisional race after Sunday’s 36-7 drubbing.
Chicago looked shaky on both offense and defense against New England, yielding a season high in yardage and points while also committing four turnovers on offense. The defeat included the most points the Bears have ever allowed in a half at home (33).
Coach Lovie Smith said both the offense and defense found it easy to put the defeat behind after reviewing game film. The Bears came out of the game without any new significant injuries.
“Maybe a week from today we’re celebrating being the NFC North champs,” tight end Greg Olsen said.
Nevertheless, the Bears will need to win at least their game over Minnesota, or the game Dec. 26 against the New York Jets, if they want to clinch the title before the season finale in Green Bay.
They looked like anything but a team on the rise when their five-game winning streak ended Sunday. The Patriots piled up a high yardage total (475) for the season while gaining more yards and scoring more points than any team has against the Bears this season.
“There’s always a 24-hour rule,” nose tackle Anthony Adams said. “Win or lose, you put it behind you. It’s just one game, you learn from it just like a boxer. Sometimes you’re going to get knocked out, but you have to get back up and keep fighting, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
The way quarterback Tom Brady carved up the Bears defense left Smith coming to the defense of his own defense, players as well as scheme.
“That was a rare happening yesterday,” Smith said. “There’s nothing wrong with our scheme. We played a little cover-2 yesterday. … But yesterday we weren’t in it an awful lot. So we’re not going to use that. The scheme is good. We didn’t execute. The scheme helped us get to 9-3.”
Rookie safety Major Wright got burned on the last play of the first half when he didn’t pick up Deion Branch in deep zone coverage, leading to a 59-yard touchdown pass.
“I think every situation you learn from, especially when you’re a young football player you’re going to have some days like that,” Smith said. “You’re going to have some plays that you would like to have back. It just wasn’t Major.
“We could’ve gotten a better pass rush. And there were a few other things we could have done in there,” Smith added. “But yes, he has to be back there (covering). It was his responsibility on that one.”
The turnovers included two interceptions thrown by quarterback Jay Cutler, who had gone two full games and parts of two others before throwing a pick. One of the interceptions came on a gamble with the Bears trailing late in the contest. More critical to the Bears’ chances Sunday was the lost fumble Cutler had on a sack at his own 9-yard line.
Cutler leads the NFL with six lost fumbles.
“I’d say our quarterback is conscious of the pressure and protecting the football,” Smith said. “But you look at most quarterbacks, most of the time the ball isn’t protected when you’re passing the football. It’s that way with all guys.”
As for next week, one question is whether the Vikings’ home field, the Metrodome, will be ready in time. Heavy snow collapsed part of the roof over the weekend, forcing Minnesota to play its home against the Giants at Ford Field in Detroit.
Smith said he has received no indication where it will be held or when he would know its location.
“I don’t think they’ll have the Metrodome done in time,” said Bears running back Chester Taylor, a former Viking. “We’ve just got to get ready to play anywhere. I wish we could play in Chicago again. But I’m sure that won’t happen.”