Bears problem vs. Packers: Lovie Smith? Or someone else?

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Bears problem vs. Packers: Lovie Smith? Or someone else?

The immediate effects of the Bears 21-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers were the easy part.

The Packers (10-4) clinched the NFC North division. The Bears (8-6) lost any meaningful control over their own playoff chances, going from the No. 2 seed in postseason standings at the midpoint when they were 7-1 to now trailing Seattle (9-5), the New York Giants (8-6, better conference record), Minnesota Vikings (8-6, better division and conference records), and ahead of the Dallas Cowboys (8-6) only by virtue of a Monday night win so long ago (Oct. 1) that it seems like a different season.

Which it effectively was.

Them winning this game in our house is what we needed to avoid today and we didnt do it, center and co-captain Roberto Garza said.

Sunday marked the sixth straight loss to the Packers, a ominous development given that one of the first reasons cited for firing general manager Jerry Angelo was the failure to keep up with the Packers.

It now looms as a tipping point for Lovie Smith as well. And maybe more than just Smith, who was 6-2 against Green Bay when the Packers were quarterbacked by Brett Favre; 1-1 with Kyle Orton vs. Aaron Rodgers; and 1-7 in games vs. Rodgers with Jay Cutler as his quarterback.

A QB who cant beat the Packers

The teams with youthful second- (Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco), third- (Russell Wilson, Seattle) and fourth-round draft choices (Kirk Cousins, Washington) at quarterback are right now firmly in playoff contention or better. The one that traded away two No. 1 picks is wondering whether he is worth a contract extension with a year left on his deal.

And Cutler has now established definitively that he does not have the wherewithal to overcome his shortcomings visavis Aaron Rodgers and beat the Green Bay Packers.

If that flaw has been enough to put Angelo and Smith in jeopardy, the same assumption can be safely made about Cutler, now 1-7 vs. the Packers and Bears centerpiece since 2009.

As I noted in a column Sunday morning, the Bears quarterback is simply not as good as his opposite number and has not found ways to overcome that. The question now is whether he ever will be able to.

It wears on me, Cutler said. It wears on everyone. You dont want to lose to your rival year-in and year-out. Then its not a rivalry anymore. Its a domination.

Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron were brought down in some significant measure because they were unable to handle the Packers and Brett Favre. Smith, who could handle Favre but not his successor, is now feeling their pain.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

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Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks beat Avalanche; Bulls lose to Mavericks

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After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."