Smith: A lot went wrong this season
Bears coach says turnovers, injuries, penaties hurt Bears
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Coach Lovie Smith, under intense criticism for a poor season that will keep the Chicago Bears out of the playoffs for a third straight year, says there's a lot of blame to go around for the team's downfall since a Super Bowl appearance.
"A lot of things have gone wrong when you don't make it three years in a row," Smith said Monday, a day after a 21-14 loss to the rival Green Bay Packers.
The sloppy Bears committed 13 penalties Sunday, quarterback Jay Cutler threw two more interceptions to run his season total to 22 and Chicago's decision making was questioned after it used back-to-back time-outs late in the game when a challenge on an incomplete pass failed.
Smith told reporters that three of the Bears' eight losses so far were "legitimate," but they had chances to win the other five.
So, what went wrong in those five?
"I think in most games the same things kind of stand out. Turnover ratio, you can look at some penalties, just not executing the way we need to -- coaches, players and all," Smith said. "As much as anything we didn't get the job done. It's kind of as simple as that."
Asked if he could foresee changes in the coaching staff next season, Smith said he wouldn't look three weeks ahead or to next year. He insisted the team was focusing solely on beating this week's opponent, the Baltimore Ravens.
After making the Super Bowl following the 2006 season, the Bears have been on a slide.
Not long after their loss to the Colts on a rainy day in Miami, they didn't retain defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, despite having one of the league's best defenses at the time; top running back Thomas Jones was traded to the Jets; and Smith got a contract extension through 2011.
Since that season, Chicago posted records of 7-9 and 9-7 and now things have only gotten worse. The Bears can reach .500 only if they beat the Ravens, Vikings and Lions to close it out.
The Bears have struggled to run the ball and their defense, missing injured linebacker Brian Urlacher, has been spotty. Cutler's interceptions have hurt.
"It just hurts to see us not reaching our potential, just not doing the things that we're so good at," defensive tackle Anthony Adams said. "We're not able to do it on the field for whatever reason and it's disheartening."
The dismal performance has turned the heat up on Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo. This season started out 3-1 before the slump -- seven losses in nine games -- that includes lopsided losses against Cincinnati, Arizona and Minnesota.
Now, no playoffs -- again.
"It's hard," Smith said. "We've been close, last year right up until the last game of the season. After the Super Bowl season, we had a letdown for whatever reason, that's happened to more teams than just us. To this year. A great start and we just haven't been able to finish. If we knew all the reasons why, we wouldn't be in this situation."
Smith, who has taken over defensive coordinator responsibilities this season, also defended his decision-making late in Sunday's game.
Trailing by a touchdown with just under five minutes left, the Bears called a time-out because Smith said things weren't right for the next play, which was going to be a third-and-22. And then Chicago decided to challenge the preceding play -- a pass from Cutler to Greg Olsen that had been ruled incomplete when Olsen lost possession.
When the Bears lost the challenge, they also lost another time-out, leaving them with one.
"In that situation you have to take a chance on that, which we did," Smith said.
Smith said he'd seen no evidence that his team lacked effort and didn't expect that to be a problem with nothing left to play for.
"That hasn't been the case at all," he said. "They are trying to do it the way we want it done. We just haven't gotten the job done. Sometimes that's the only answer you can give."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press