What do the Bears have left to play for?

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DETROIT — The Bears’ 2014 season isn’t over, but it is.

In retrospect, it probably was done a few weeks ago in Green Bay, but victories against two bad teams at home seemed to keep hope alive.

Well, that hope died in the Motor City.

After the Bears’ seventh loss of a maddening second season under coach Marc Trestman, a 34-17 disappointment Thursday against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, even the most optimistic of Bears sounded resigned to their reality.

The result enabled the Lions to remain undefeated in the NFC North, which still is led by the red-hot Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The wild-card race might be a wild one, but the Bears would have to win out and get plenty of help to have a chance. Plus, they might be one of six NFC teams with a 5-7 record after Sunday.

How do the Bears deal with their place in the standings?

‘‘Just take a deep breath,’’ receiver Brandon Marshall said.

There was plenty of that in the Bears’ dejected locker room. Heads hung low or were buried in iPhones, even as some veterans walked around offering fist bumps and words of encouragement.

‘‘Our focus will be on Dallas,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘We’re just going to stay locked into that and work each and every day to be the best football team we can be, and that’s the only way to approach it at this point.’’

Still, what’s left to play for? It will be a question players have to ponder for the rest of the season, which can get worse with the Cowboys and New Orleans Saints coming to Soldier Field.

‘‘Hopefully, it doesn’t take much,’’ tight end Martellus Bennett said. ‘‘Guys get paid a lot of money, so whatever it is they’ve got to do — whether it’s the name on the front or the name on the back of the jersey, self-pride, self-dignity, whatever it is — guys have to find out whatever it is they go out and play for.’’

The loss against the Lions, though, showed just how far from contending the Bears are and how meaningless victories against the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were.

The Bears built a 14-3 lead in the first quarter behind a sharp effort by quarterback Jay Cutler and a forced fumble by defensive end Jared Allen, but that momentum dissipated quickly during the Lions’ 21-0 run in the second quarter.

After being held without a touchdown in their last two games, the Lions scored four against the Bears. Their 34 points were their most since a 35-14 victory against the New York Giants in Week 1.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford (34-for-45, 390 yards, two touchdowns, 116.0 passer rating) and receivers Calvin Johnson (11 catches, 146 yards, two touchdowns) and Golden Tate (eight catches, 89 yards) made easy work of the Bears’ soft zone coverages and inexperience on defense. It was Stafford’s best rating since his 116.4 in Week 4 against the New York Jets.

‘‘We have to get better, and we know that,’’ linebacker Jon Bostic said.

Trestman’s hold on the locker room truly will be tested now. The Bears didn’t tuck and run after being blown out by the Packers, but the playoffs still were a faint dream then. It will be harder to sell that message now.

Trestman’s ability to keep Cutler (31-for-48, 280 yards, two touchdowns, three sacks, two interceptions, 76.7 passer rating) motivated will be everything.

‘‘With the guys we have and the character and integrity of the guys, I don’t think anybody’s going to quit,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘The coaches won’t let us; they’re not going to quit on us. The leaders of the team will make sure that we finish this right.’’

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns

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