LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) - Never mind the disappointment and frustration, cornerback Tracy Porter insisted the Chicago Bears can't afford to give up on the rest of the season.
What they need is a strong finish, not a vacation.
"It can transcend and go on until the following season," Porter said Monday.
"You look back and say, hey, we finished the final three games 3-0. And then that can carry over into training camp, OTAs and then lead on into the regular season."
The Bears (5-8) are treading into tough territory with three games left after making a surprising jump into playoff contention.
Back-to-back losses hurt those postseason hopes and left them staring at the possibility of a season-ending freefall.
That's something they will try to avoid starting with Sunday's game at Minnesota. But the past two games have been particularly gut-wrenching, particularly for kicker Robbie Gould.
His 50-yard field goal attempt late in Sunday's 24-21 loss to Washington sailed wide right, another huge miss for a usually reliable kicker. He also missed from 36 yards at the end of regulation the previous week in an overtime defeat to San Francisco.
The recent struggles have raised questions about whether the 34-year-old Gould's best days are behind him. But the Bears' issues go beyond their kicker.
The biggest one for the players might be avoiding a lack of focus on the games and thinking about their futures.
"A lot of people on the outside ask that question," coach John Fox said. "But this is our livelihood. This is just like what you guys do. I don't know what you guys deal with on a day-to-day basis, but I can assure you with us, we're highly competitive people and we're always looking to get better."
Like Porter, tight end Zach Miller insisted these remaining games mean something, can help lay the foundation for next season.
"It leads into the offseason," he said. "You're not going to look back and say, 'Oh man, that had a huge impact on how we move forward.' But it matters because winning is what matters in this league."
Miller and Porter have expiring contracts and are contributing after being limited by injuries in recent seasons.
While Porter insisted he is not thinking about which uniform he will wear next season, Miller made it clear he wants to stay. He has five touchdown catches this season.
"I want to be here," Miller said. "However that works out is how it works out. I just want to play well for the next three weeks and however that plays out, that's what's going to happen. I know I want to be here."
The question is where the Bears go from here.
They have shown improvement this season after last season's 5-11 struggles under former coach Marc Trestman.
The strides the Bears made this season under Fox and new GM Ryan Pace have restored hope to a fan base that has seen just one playoff run since the 2006 Super Bowl appearance.
But they've struggled at home, going 1-6. They have also dropped four games by three points or fewer.
"I think we've not done a good job of playing to our own potential, playing to our own standard of football," Porter said. "We've done more playing to our competition's level."
They've also dealt with a long list of injuries.
The Bears placed safety Antrel Rolle on season-ending injured reserve on Monday because of a sprained right knee. He sprained a medial collateral ligament during practice last month and has not played since Nov. 15.
They also have a deadline Tuesday afternoon to decide whether to add rookie receiver Kevin White to the active roster. A three-week evaluation period is ending, and the Bears have to decide whether to add the No. 7 draft pick to the active roster. White has been on the physically unable to perform list all season after having shin surgery, and Fox would not say what the team will do.
Linebacker Pernell McPhee has been bothered for the past several weeks by a knee injury. He was inactive against Washington. And when asked Monday if the Bears would shut him down, Fox said, "I wouldn't go so far as that."