LAKE FOREST, Ill. – With four losses in five games and a 4-5 record, defensive tackle Tommie Harris realizes the Chicago Bears’ hopes are fading fast.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – With four losses in five games and a 4-5 record, defensive tackle Tommie Harris realizes the Chicago Bears’ hopes are fading fast.

His faith in Lovie Smith is not, however.

Harris rushed to his coach’s defense, saying the Bears “owe it” to him to keep playing hard and that he’s “been great to us.”

Smith, who coached the 2006 team to the Super Bowl, has come under criticism lately with the Bears staring at their third straight postseason miss. A 10-6 loss to struggling San Francisco last Thursday did nothing to quiet the critics and the schedule doesn’t get easier, with Philadelphia visiting Soldier Field on Sunday.

Harris said Smith’s message to the team was simple: “Keep believing in this club, believing in this defense.”

“And we do,” Harris added. “And we owe it to him. That guy has been great to us from training camps to what he’s done with the facilities. Different things that you see other coaches really don’t care about, but this guy has come in and helped us out tremendously, and we owe it back to him.”

A 6-1 finish would give the Bears 10 wins and a likely playoff berth, but they still have two games left with Minnesota and one against Green Bay. Beating Donovan McNabb and the Eagles won’t be easy whether Brian Westbrook misses the game with a concussion or not. And even if the Bears finish with nine wins, there’s no guarantee they would make the playoffs, as they learned last season.

“Now, the back is on our walls,” Harris said. “I mean the wall is on our backs. So we really have to do something now.”

Actually, he meant their backs are against the wall, but if the Bears mangled opponents the way Harris butchered that cliche, they’d be in better shape.

Instead, they’re reeling. And they will need a major turnaround to reach nine wins.

“You know it’s there,” defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. “You’ve got a sense of urgency. I think the thing we need to do is take that pressure and try to apply it on someone else, so we take that energy and use it in a positive way.”

They’ve allowed more than 40 points twice in the last five games while getting blown out by Cincinnati and Arizona, and the lone win was an surprisingly unimpressive 30-6 victory over lowly Cleveland. Quarterback Jay Cutler, the man carrying the franchise’s long-term hopes with his right arm, is taking a beating and making poor decisions when he’s not being taken down.

He now has a league-worst 17 interceptions and 12 in the past five games after throwing five against the 49ers. All were in San Francisco territory, and two stopped drives near the goal line.

“A lot goes into when you turn the ball over with an interception,” Smith said. “Of course the quarterback will get blamed for it all. All of those weren’t his fault. The running game will help that a lot. We need to get our running game going. We’ve said that all along.”

But it’s been struggling all along.

The Bears are 30th in the NFL at 85.2 yards rushing per game, and they’re averaging just 3.8 per carry. Meanwhile, the losses are mounting.

“We have five losses,” Smith said. “Five losses don’t keep you out of anything. Our players realize that.”

Two more just might do the trick, and with some tough opponents looming, Harris understands the task at hand.

“We have no room for any more losses,” he said. “If you lose, you’re going to be hoping another team loses so you can get in. You don’t want to do that. We were in that position last year. It is basically in our hands right now. We have to do a better job and everybody has to step up.” AP

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