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Bears increase first-place lead

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 25, 2012 – 10:52 pm

With Minnesota’s 36-17 loss to the visiting Buccaneers Thursday night, the Bears (5-1) extended their lead atop the NFC North to a full game over the Vikings (5-3). The Packers (4-3) remain third, followed by the Lions (2-4).

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Ground game has provided a boost

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 25, 2012 – 6:35 pm

After averaging 101 yards on the ground during their first four games, the Bears have rushed for 214 and 171 yards versus the Jaguars and Lions, respectively, in their last two contests.

“We’ve kept our commitment to it; you have to start with that,” said coach Lovie Smith. “It helps so much when you can run the ball, which we’ve been able to do the last couple weeks.

“When you have two running backs too like Michael Bush—the yards that he has given us—along with a special player in Matt Forte, why wouldn’t you run the ball?”

Forte has run the ball extremely well against Sunday’s opponent, the Carolina Panthers. In fact, the two most productive games of his five-year NFL career have both come against the Panthers with 205 yards on 25 carries last season and 166 yards on 22 attempts in 2010.

“Matt’s had exceptional days both times and made us look good,” said center Roberto Garza. “Up front we have to do a little bit better job than we did this past week. We left a lot of plays on the field technique-wise, so hopefully we can get better and move on.”

Offensive coordinator Mike Tice said that against the Jaguars and Lions the line played its two most physical games in his three seasons with the Bears.

“We’re coming along,” Garza said. “It’s been a focus for us, the rival game against Detroit, knowing what kind of front they are. But you want an offensive line to be physical every tine, create movement and get on those guys and stay on those guys.”

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Bears eager to get into regular routine

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 25, 2012 – 5:12 pm

Given their unorthodox schedule, getting into a regular routine hasn’t been easy for the Bears. That’s why they’re happy about playing back-to-back games at noon on Sunday the next two weeks for the first time this season.

The Bears’ first six games have been played on three different days of the week (Sunday, Monday and Thursday) and at four different times (noon, 3:05 p.m., 7:20 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.). They played their first two games in a five-day span and since have had breaks of 10 and 15 days between games.

“It does help that you can get into some kind of routine,” said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. “We had 15 days off [before Monday night’s win over the Lions] and it just didn’t feel as crisp as we wanted it to be. We felt a little off.

“So it is good to get into a real routine of a regular week and a regular day game where you go down and you have a meeting the night before the game and you have a regular Friday and maybe I can see my wife Diane when she’s awake and different things like that.”

Quarterback Jay Cutler is also looking forward to playing the Bears’ next two games at noon on Sunday at home against the Panthers and in Tennessee versus the Titans.

“Whenever we take three or four days off practice and then come back it’s always kind of a feel-it-out kind of sloppy practice, and then the next day we come back sharp,” Cutler said.

“We had 15 days off without playing a game. It’s hard to do. I think it’s good for us to go Sunday-Sunday and kind of get in a little bit of a routine and get back in schedule.”

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Cutler appreciates fan support

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 25, 2012 – 3:22 pm

Bears fans no doubt will be happy to hear that quarterback Jay Cutler practiced without restrictions Thursday in preparation for Sunday’s home game against the Carolina Panthers.

Cutler suffered bruised ribs on a vicious but legal sack by Ndamukong Suh in Monday night’s win over the Lions. The quarterback appreciated the ovations he received from Bears fans when he jogged off the field and later when he returned to the game after missing only one play.

Asked about his fan support, Cutler said: “That was good to hear. It hasn’t always been great around here. But they’re coming around slowly but surely.”

Cutler has been hosting a weekly one-hour radio show on ESPN this season. Asked if he feels whether fans are warming up to him because of the show, Cutler said: “Winning helps too. Anytime you win, that’s going to be a cure-all. After the Packers week, we were back at DEFCON 5.

“The radio show doesn’t hurt, though, by any means. It’s a fun hour. The guys I’m working with (Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman) are doing a good job and the fans seem to like it as well.”

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Rivera impressed with Bears defense

Posted by Larry Mayer on October 25, 2012 – 2:06 pm

Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who served as defensive coordinator with the Bears in 2006 when they reached the Super Bowl, is impressed with what he’s seen of his former team on tape.

“As you watch these guys, you watch a team that’s very opportunistic,” Rivera said in advance of Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. “They go out and they attack the ball and they get the football. It’s almost reminiscent of 2006. In fact, I think this group could be better, I really do.”

The Bears defense leads the NFL in points allowed per game (13.0), takeaways (21) and sacks per game (3.5). The unit has fueled a four-game winning streak by scoring five touchdowns while only allowing three TDs in wins over the Rams, Cowboys, Jaguars and Lions.

“Their front four can rush as well as anybody in the league and they can get after the quarterback with just four guys,” Rivera said. “Then, you watch the way the linebackers attack. These guys are downhill football players. They are physical, they are playmakers.

“And then I think their DBs are opportunistic. You look at what Charles Tillman does and the way he is redefining stripping and knocking the football out I think is really a true testament to that defensive philosophy that has been there for quite some time.”

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