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Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears can't sneak into playoffs

The Chicago Bears didn't play great football late in the season or on Sunday in Detroit. Unfortunately for them, even a spectacular game wouldn't have been enough to guarantee a playoff spot.

The Bears' 26-24 win over the Detroit Lions was a fitting end to their season. Chicago benefited from four Detroit turnovers and survived some inconsistent play from its offense.

However, the Bears' season is over. The Minnesota Vikings' 37-34 victory over the Green Bay Packers eliminated the 10-6 Bears from playoff contention and renewed speculation about coach Lovie Smith's future with the team.

Even if the Bears managed to make the playoffs, it always was hard to see them going very far. Four times, the Bears got the ball in scoring position after forcing a turnover. They only scored a touchdown on one of the drives, settling for three field goals. The Bears often were stuffed in short-yardage situations, and Brandon Marshall had a rough day.

The Lions finished an embarrassing 4-12 season on an eight-game losing streak. Two of their four turnovers were fumbles that simply were dropped. Matthew Stafford set the NFL record for passing attempts in a season, but he looked undisciplined with three turnovers. Calvin Johnson had 72 receiving yards, finishing with an NFL-record 1,964 for the season.

Ultimately, the Bears deserve credit for holding on after nearly losing a 20-3 lead. The Lions had the ball with under five minutes left and a chance to win the game. The Bears' defense forced a three-and-out. The Bears' offense then used up the rest of the clock, with a Jay Cutler scramble and a Matt Forte run the key plays.

The Bears showed over the last two weeks that they can beat bad teams. But Chicago's offense had too many problems and its defense wasn't good enough to deliver them into the playoffs.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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