LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Jay Cutler understands the Chicago Bears need help to get to the playoffs, and they could use more than just an assist from archrival Green Bay.
How about getting that offence to pitch in?
It hasn't in recent weeks, and that's one reason the Bears (9-6) are in danger of missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. The struggles on offence have played a big role in their free-fall after a 7-1 start, and even if they win at Detroit in the season finale on Sunday, there's no guarantee they'll make it.
They'll still need Green Bay to beat or tie Minnesota. They could also get in with a tie if the Vikings lose.
"This is a big game," Cutler said. "I think last week was a big game. We've got to win. There's nothing else to be said about it. And quarterback play, these are games you've got to have."
After dropping five of their previous six, the Bears are coming off a 28-13 win over Arizona thanks to two defensive touchdowns. Starting running back Matt Forte's status for this week is in question after he injured his right ankle for the third time this season.
He came through with one of his better performances, running for 88 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries before leaving the game.
He did not practice Wednesday.
"His ankle is looking pretty good," coach Lovie Smith said. "It's a big football game. They're all big. You always play guys when they're healthy and ready to go. Hopefully, that'll be the case with Matt. He's pretty encouraged by what's happened."
That's good news for an offence that hasn't delivered much in recent weeks.
If Forte isn't ready, the Bears would turn to Kahlil Bell and Armando Allen with backup Michael Bush on injured reserve.
Injuries on both sides have mounted with the losses, but the defence at least has been doing its part. The Bears got back to their ball-hawking ways against an anemic offence last week, with Charles Tillman returning an interception for a score and Zack Bowman returning a fumble recovery one yard for another touchdown.
But the offence again had trouble finding the end zone.
The Bears have just three touchdowns rushing and eight passing over the past seven games and had only one of each against the Cardinals.
Cutler completed 1 of his first 11 passes and finished with 146 yards after throwing for just 135 the previous week in a loss to Green Bay that left the Bears looking for help to get to the playoffs rather than controlling their own destiny.
The offence did click in the two-minute drill just before halftime against Arizona, with Brandon Marshall hauling in an 11-yard touchdown pass.
"It wasn't (that) we were doing anything different or they were doing anything different," Cutler said. "We were just making plays. Running good routes, guys were snagging the ball, the line played well all day. I think we just have to have a sense of urgency on every play and just get up there, like the call and go out there and execute it."
One thing that's encouraging for the Bears is Cutler's history against Detroit. He's 6-2 against the Lions with 1,565 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception.
But he also realizes Detroit would love to knock out the Bears.
How Chicago's offence performs could go a long way toward preventing that. The Bears rank 28th in that area and simply haven't clicked the way they envisioned after bringing in Marshall and reuniting him with Cutler.
They've been banged up, and their offensive line has been a mess all year, struggling with injuries and poor play in general. That group actually held its ground last week.
"They're grown men and they get embarrassed," offensive co-ordinator Mike Tice said. "They don't want to be the group that's screwing it up for everybody. They've taken their turns doing that. We all have."
Notes: Bears DT Henry Melton teed off on the Lions, calling them a "dirty team" that's going to take liberties. "Oh, they're going to be looking for cheap shots and all that mess. We've just got to hold our composure and play the game we know." There have been issues between the teams in recent years, and Brandon Marshall called out Ndamukong Suh on Twitter for what he thought was a dirty hit on a violent sack of Cutler during the Bears' win over the Lions in October. Cutler insisted at the time there was nothing illegal about the hit. ... Besides Forte, Brian Urlacher (hamstring), Tillman (ribs, elbow), S Chris Conte (hamstring), RB Armando Allen (knee) and LB Blake Costanzo (calf) did not practice.
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