Pressure builds on Bears during another late swoon

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Pressure builds on Bears during another late swoon

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) 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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Brooks addresses Wizards' effort following Wall's comments

Brooks addresses Wizards' effort following Wall's comments

Two days after his star point guard John Wall questioned the effort of his teammates on defense following a disappointing loss against the Orlando Magic, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks spoke at length about where his team stands at the moment and his efforts to right the ship. The 7-13 Wizards continue to complain about defense following games they feel they should have won, so how do they change that now that they have reached the quarter-mark of the season?

Brooks, as he has for much of this season, directed the blame towards himself.

"We aren't satisfied being 7-13. We feel like we gave a few games away and a couple of games probably didn't go our way," he said. "I'm disappointed where we are and I'm disappointed in myself in not being able to figure out how we can get better and play better and play consistently better."

On the subject of Wall and players speaking to and about their teammates, Brooks said that behind the scenes there have been no disagreements that he would classify as unusual or corrosive.

"I can tell you this that it hasn't happened. We're still together and trying to figure out ways to get consistent play and win games. The good thing about my job is that we have a bunch of good guys on the team. There's not one guy that comes to the court that I wish wasn't here. I think every coach has been in situations like that where you're not happy to be around certain players. But we don't have that here, we've got guys that work and guys that will continue to work. They are high-character guys," Brooks said. 

Brooks believes that in general honest communication is a positive thing, as long as the intentions generate from the right place.

"It's with all good teams. I've seen guys have conversations or guys have conversations with guys during games. If you don't do that, you don't care. It's important. All the great teams that have been in the history of this league have had guys that communicate during timeouts," Brooks explained. "Sometimes it's heated. Sometimes it's very heated and you have to be able to manage that. I call it coaching. We watch film and it's not about calling anybody out. It's facts, it's about how can we get better?"

The central premise of Wall's comments involved effort. He said, among other things: "to still be talking about playing hard, that's something that you should be able to do after just waking up."

Brooks has been harping similar messages involving focus on the defensive end. But he says it's not as simple as just telling players to try harder.

"It's the daily habits of doing it every day and it's pretty simple, but sometimes it takes longer than you want. I think right now, in my eyes, it's taking longer than I would like. But we're going to keep working, we're going to keep talking about it, we're going to keep watching it in the film sessions and we're going to keep practicing it on the court," Brooks said.

Brooks continued to say that the Wizards have the personnel to be better on the defensive end. They have two capable guards in Wall and Bradley Beal and others who provide value in rebounding and protecting the rim. They just haven't been able to put it all together and that is the frustrating part.

[RELATED: Film study: Wizards' defense on hiatus]

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Capitals call up Aaron Ness from Hershey

Capitals call up Aaron Ness from Hershey

The Washington Capitals have recalled defenseman Aaron Ness prior to the team's trip to Buffalo.

Ness, who has been played 17 games with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League this season, has scored the most goals among defensemen on the team (3) and is third in points (9).

The 2008 NHL second round draft pick, has played in 37 NHL games with both the New York Islanders and the Capitals. Last season, the 26-year old played in eight games for Washington and recorded two assists. 

Ness joins the team after Matt Niskanen's upper body injury, which has him missing the team's Sabres matchup on Friday.

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