Latest loss leaves Bears with little wiggle room

I've been saying the Bears could afford to lose to the Texans and the 49ers and be OK. I'll stick by my words.

Obviously, the manner in which the Bears have gone from 7-1 to 7-3 hasn't been ideal. I said they could afford two losses. I didn't say they could afford to exit them with a concussed Jay Cutler, an offensive line that looks as incompetent as ever and a defense that has gone from dominanting the league to making Colin Kaepernick look like Steve Young. And I haven't even mentioned the struggling special teams or the continued lack of production from the tight ends and secondary receivers.

Record-wise, the Bears are still OK. At 7-3, they're no longer alone atop the NFC North, but they still control their own destiny there. Three teams are now a game behind them in the wild-card race, but the Bears will have a golden chance to put some space between themselves and Seattle and, especially, Minnesota in the next three weeks.

But what the Bears' two-game losing streak means is that the wiggle room they once enjoyed is gone. They can't afford to lose any more and still be confortable. I don't like to call games must-win games unless a team literally must win it to accomplish its goals. The Bears could very well lose Sunday at home to the Vikings and still make the playoffs in about a million different scenarios, so it's not a must-win. It's an extremely important game, however. Win, and the Bears are still in good shape in the NFC playoff race. Lose, and they're just another team in the wild-card hunt.

And if the Bears want to win, there's a lot that needs to be fixed in a hurry. Mike Tice the offensive coordinator had better realize that Mike Tice the de facto offensive line coach has given him a pair of tackles that Jared Allen could go nuts against and adjust accordingly. Devin Hester doesn't necessarily need to score in the return game, but he needs to not run backwards, and he needs to stop being given the chance to be an ineffective part of an ineffective offense. Chris Conte and Major Wright need to remember how to play again, or else Christian Ponder's going to be the latest no-name QB going wild against the Bears. Oh, and it sure wouldn't hurt for Cutler to return.

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