Playoff payoff still possible?

A few weeks ago, people were laughing when the Bears were talking playoffs. <P> They might still be, but one thing's for certain after Sunday's 28-3 victory over the Arizona Cardinals: The Bears are still in the hunt. Even if "barely" is the word for it.

The Vikings' loss to St. Louis Sunday dropped them to 7-5, and Green Bay's 6-6 after losing to Detroit on Thanksgiving. The 5-7 Bears have to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field next week, but still have a chance at this point.

"That laughter has turned to smiles," defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "They aren't showing teeth as much, but we've got an opportunity. We've got to take care of business, obviously, but if we play well the last four weeks, anything's possible."

With the NFC North still wide open at this point, the Bears seem to have as good a chance as anybody, especially since the Vikings and Packers are struggling.

"If we do (make the playoffs), it will take a lot of negative stuff off this team," defensive end Alex Brown said.

The Bears defense put it all together against the Cardinals, allowing just 194 yards of total offense and only nine first downs. The offense produced 422 yards and had its best game off the season.

If only Chicago had performed like this in close losses to Detroit, St. Louis, Seattle and New Orleans.

"It makes you mad if you do (look back)," defensive end Alex Brown said. "That's why you try not to. We didn't play well at times and the other teams we played -- give them the credit because they found a way to win.

"But now we're playing well and we're going to keep playing well. We're going to get better."

Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache snapped when asked about what-could-have-beens during early-season disappointments.

"I don't look back. People who look back are losers and cowards," Blache said. "I look to the future. I look to going to Lambeau Field next week. That's a big challenge for us.

"I don't worry about the past. I can't control that."


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