LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Just a few weeks ago, the Chicago Bears were celebrating in the locker room and looking at an unexpected playoff push.
A three-game losing streak dashed those hopes. Now, they're simply trying to stop a freefall.
The Bears (5-9) delivered one of their worst performances of the season in a 38-17 pounding at Minnesota on Sunday.
''We'll find out who in that locker room has some character and wants to finish and who doesn't,'' quarterback Jay Cutler said.
Chicago was buzzing after an inspired win at Green Bay on Thanksgiving night that put them right in the playoff picture at 5-6, with coach John Fox and his players letting loose in the locker room afterward. Not only did the Bears spoil Brett Favre's night, they matched last season's win total.
But they've been stuck on five wins since then, with close losses to San Francisco and Washington at home along with that blowout by Minnesota. They will miss the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years.
And if they drop their remaining games at Tampa Bay and against Detroit, the Bears will finish with the same record they had last season under former coach Marc Trestman.
That would be a huge letdown for a team that until this recent slide was making big strides in its first season under Fox and general manager Ryan Pace.
But the Bears have been unraveling since that win at Green Bay. After making Aaron Rodgers miserable, they got burned by San Francisco's Blaine Gabbert for a 71-yard touchdown pass in overtime after his long run tied it in regulation.
''It's disappointing,'' Fox said Monday. ''I think it's disappointing probably to our fans. I know it is to us in this building, whether you're a player or a coach or administrator.''
Fox oversaw turnarounds that led to Super Bowl appearances when he coached Carolina and Denver. He came to Chicago knowing he was facing a huge job after last season's meltdown, and it's clear there still is plenty of work to do.
The loss to the Vikings was as sloppy as just about any this season.
Cutler was sacked five times and Alshon Jeffery left with a hamstring injury, the latest in a line of ailments that have limited the Bears' leading receiver to nine games.
Fox said he was receiving treatment on Monday and will likely get more on Tuesday before his availability for Wednesday's practice is determined.
The growing line of injuries to Jeffery is an issue for the Bears, particularly given his expiring contract.
''We're evaluating everything all the time,'' Fox said. ''Whether it's injuries, execution, starting fast, starting slow - there's really not much that we don't look into. It's a very analytical type of game. So it's no different with injuries. We look at everything from how we stretch to how we warm up. You name it, we look at it.''
The Bears also figure to take a look at the missed tackles and blown coverage assignments against Minnesota. The defense committed four offside penalties - one that was offset by a flag against Minnesota - whether that was brought on by a need to hit the Vikings for a loss or just simple lapses.
''These four words always ring true in my brain, and that starts from me down basically - focus, intensity, preparation and then really the mental toughness to create all those things on a consistent basis,'' Fox said. ''So we're not there yet.''
Note: Fox said linebacker Shea McClellin experienced concussion symptoms after the game.
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