Same old story

In three of his four seasons with the Bears, including this one, defensive end Phillip Daniels has been virtually certain by Thanksgiving that his team wasn't going to the playoffs.

It gets old. Hearing the same questions about remote playoff possibilities at the halfway point of the season and having to reply with the same answers about winning out or running the table becomes tiresome.

"I'm tired of saying that," Phillip Daniels said. "Year in and year out, (saying), 'We're not out of it. We still got a chance.'

You want to go out and start fast so there's no doubt in anybody's mind that you're going to make the playoffs. Now, we don't know what's going to happen. We don't know if we can run the table. That stuff ain't promised to you. You just have to do the things early to get you where you need to be and then you'll know whether or not you're going to be in the playoffs or you have a chance."

In 2001, the Bears were 7-2 on Nov. 18. Their cumulative record on the same date in 2000, 2002 and this year is 7-23, which doesn't do much for late-season enthusiasm. Currently at 3-6, the Bears' only playoff chance is mathematical.

"If a player on this team can honestly say, 'We're going to be in the playoffs,' he doesn't know that," Daniels said. "We have to battle now. We're in a fight. It's like a fight for your life."

A victory over the Lions on Sunday would have at least kept playoff hopes alive, since it would have provided the momentum of a three-game winning streak and left them two games out of the final wild-card spot.

"We had something very positive coming in here," guard Chris Villarrial said after the loss in Detroit, "and now we've dug ourselves a hole again."

Given the Bears' inability to win on the road, it's a hole they're unlikely to climb out of. The loss to the Lions was the Bears' 12th straight as visitors. Their three remaining road games are against the 5-4 Broncos, who may be getting injured No. 1 quarterback Jake Plummer back this week; the 4-5 Packers and the 9-0 Chiefs.

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