By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) The Bears can’t ignore the big picture, but they’re going to have to try.
If they lose to the Lions Sunday in Detroit, it could be the end of an era. It could be the last time they play for head coach Lovie Smith.
For veterans like Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Charles Tillman, it means a little more than that. They’ve been with Smith the whole way and if he leaves, their own job security will take a hit too.
“I’ve enjoyed every moment of being here in Chicago and I don’t intend on that changing,” Briggs said Thursday at Halas Hall. “So it’s time to go out and beat Detroit and then we’ll pull for the Packers.”
Briggs signed a contract extension in April and has two years remaining on his deal, but if the Bears were to go in a new offensive direction, everyone on Lovie Smith’s defense becomes expendable without the protection of their head coach. Thus, for the longtime defensive veterans, the mindset this Sunday is to not only win the game for Smith, but to win it for themselves too.
“Yeah, more than just Lovie,” Briggs said. “You want to win it for us. Win it for us. If you’ve enjoyed your time here in Chicago and the way Lovie has treated you and us together and this camaraderie that we have, then win it for that. If Lovie’s not here, that goes, that goes with him.”
After starting the season 7-1, the Bears lost five of six games before beating the Cardinals last weekend in Arizona. Now their playoff fate is out of their hands as they not only have to beat the Lions Sunday, but they need the Packers to beat the Vikings too.
First-year general manager Phil Emery will make his conclusions off more than just what happens in Detroit and Minneapolis this weekend, but the players know the only way they can influence those conclusions is by winning. If the Bears can get into the playoffs and win a couple games, they know Lovie Smith won’t be going anywhere.
“My job right now is to focus on beating the Detroit Lions. I think that’s what all our jobs are right now and that’s what we need to focus on — trying to make it to the postseason,” Briggs said.
The situation this Sunday is very similar to what Briggs and the Bears experienced in 2008, when they went to Houston in Week 17 needing a win and some help. They got the help, but didn’t take care of their own business, losing 31-24 to an 8-8 Texans team.
So what went wrong in that game?
“Shoot, too much looking over, looking to see what other teams were doing rather than keeping the Texans out of the end zone,” Briggs said. “That was another spoiler. They left that season at least with a somewhat nice taste in their mouth and left us with a sour taste.”
If the Bears lose to the Lions Sunday, they’ll experience much more than a sour taste. Best case scenario? Lovie is allowed to coach under the final year of his contract and an aging defensive core gets one last crack at a championship in a year full of tough questions and doubts about the future. Worst case scenario? Smith is fired, a new offensive-driven era of Bears football is born and the veterans on defense are kicked to the side.
What Emery is thinking remains a mystery. It’s possible conclusions have already been made, but if they have, the players don’t know that. The big picture is impossible to ignore, but the only way they can help is by winning the next game.
“It’s all within our control,” Briggs said.
He’s been around long enough to know that’s not true, but if the Bears want to win Sunday in Detroit, that’s the only mindset they can have.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.