LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Lovie Smith isn't going to get caught up in any outside discussion about his job security with the Bears scuffling along and in danger of missing the playoffs after a 7-1 start.
Chicago's coach says his only focus is on trying to get a wild-card spot by beating Arizona this weekend and then winning the regular-season finale at Detroit.
"This week, we're to that 'must' game," Smith said Monday at Halas Hall. "I mean, the tournament has begun for us, so it's about Arizona as soon as the players get a chance to watch the video. We have to find a way to get to 10-6 and see what happens."
After losing 21-13 to the rival Packers on Sunday, the Bears have to win two road games to finish 10-6 and have a chance for the last NFC playoff berth. There are scenarios where they could get in at 9-7, but they involve numerous tiebreakers.
There has been plenty of speculation that Smith and his staff could lose their jobs if the Bears don't make the postseason. Smith's final year of his current contract is 2013, and new general manager Phil Emery has not yet started contract talks on an extension. Nor has Emery had a comment on Smith's job status.
Smith isn't going there, either.
"We're just looking at how we can get to nine (wins)," he said. "Every year there are people in situations like this. Unless you've clinched a position right now, a playoff position, you're still having to win football games to get in. But you don't look at all the scenarios. You just look at what you need to do. And for us we need to win a game this week and then win another one the following week. It's as simple as that."
Injured Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher defended his coach Sunday, telling WFLD-TV that fan and media criticism of Smith is unwarranted.
"Two of the people I don't care about: fans or media," Urlacher said. "They can say what they want to about our head coach, about our players. ... It does bother me. They don't know what they're talking about, obviously.
"I know there are a lot of experts in the media, a bunch of smart guys out there who know exactly what they're talking about all the time. They don't know what they're talking about. Lovie is the head coach of this football team and hopefully will be for a long time."
Urlacher also took a shot at the Soldier Field fans: "Our crowd was pretty good today for the most part. They were loud for a minute there, the boos were really loud, which is always nice."
"The only team in our division that gets booed at home is us," Urlacher said. "It's unbelievable to me."
Smith said he couldn't comment specifically since he hadn't heard the comments.
"I just know who Brian Urlacher is," Smith said. "I know that he loves being a Chicago Bear. He's helped us win a lot of football games around here. He's a leader. He's disappointed like we all are right now in a position we were in yesterday and he's going to come to work this week getting ready for Arizona."
Quarterback Jay Cutler also came to his coach's defense.
"I know Brian is frustrated that he can't be out there to help us," Cutler said during his weekly appearance on WMVP-AM radio. "I think everyone in that locker room is supporting Lovie, and we'll see what happens."
Much of the criticism of Smith centers around the team's inability to beat Green Bay. The Bears have lost eight of their last nine against the Packers and six straight. Sunday's game gave Green Bay the NFC North title.
"We'll keep trying to figure that out," Smith said of the failures against Green Bay. "Right now when you've lost as many as we have, I can't give you a good reason for it. ... We've made progress. We were in the game early on. We just couldn't finish the job."
The other big issue facing the team is poor finishes under Smith. With seven straight December defeats, they haven't won in the month since 2010. During Smith's nine seasons, they are 15-19 in December.
"I think you have to look at each individual team and why it happened then," Smith said. "We could be playing good football teams at the time. I think on some of those, a few of the years, you'd like to think that we didn't have to play certain guys a few times. There are a lot of things that could happen."
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