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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Finally some playoff success for Caps' fans to cheer for. The South Carolina Stingrays, Washington's ECHL affiliate, defeated the Manchester Monarchs 4-3 on Wednesday to win the Eastern Conference and advance to the Kelly Cup Finals.

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South Carolina lost both Games 1 and 2 at home but came roaring back with three straight wins. Manchester was able to force a Game 7, but the Stingrays ultimately prevailed in Game 7 thanks to a third period tally from Olivier Archambault. The win clinched South Carolina's second conference title in three years.

The Capitals currently have two prospects on the roster in South Carolina. Defenseman Cody Corbett ranks second among the team's defensemen in points this postseason with one goal and six assists. Goalie Adam Carlson is serving as the team's backup and has made only one brief appearance.

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The due date of Kirk Cousins' baby is getting closer to a critical part of the NFL schedule

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Once upon a time, one Redskins quarterback infamously announced that he was all in for Week 1. The Redskins' current QB, however, is most certainly not.

While talking to the media on Wednesday at his team's OTAs, Kirk Cousins said that the baby he and his wife, Julie, are expecting is projected to come earlier than the couple originally thought. That's, of course, tremendous news for the two, but it could also present a large issue due to what Cousins does for a living.

"Yeah, the baby's due in mid-September," he said. "Was supposed to be Week 2, but we got the 20-week ultrasound and they moved it up a week. So, we're looking for around Week 1, between Week 1 and Week 2. We're praying that it'll come on a day where it doesn't conflict with any important football matters."

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Again — congratulations to Kirk and Julie. Babies are fun and cute and they're worth a ton of Instagram likes and, overall, they're something worth celebrating. But when Cousins says he's hoping that the baby arrives on a non-gameday, he's not alone; the Redskins will have a much better shot of beating the Eagles on September 10 if he's under center and not Colt McCoy, after all.

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"We're excited, and Julie's been great," Kirk said. "She's just been outstanding the whole time and she's already told me that she's going to carry the weight the first few months so I can focus on football, and she's gonna be a big help. We're looking forward to that. Lots to look forward to right now, I'm in a good place."

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