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Bears look to reverse troubling trend

Posted by Larry Mayer on December 12, 2012 – 5:40 pm

The Bears went 7-3 against the Packers in Lovie Smith’s first five seasons as coach from 2004-08, but have since lost seven of eight meetings including five straight to their arch rivals.

The Bears haven’t even had a lead in their last four games against the Packers, falling behind 14-0, 14-0, 7-0 and 13-0 en route to losses by scores of 21-14, 27-17, 35-21 and 23-10.

It’s a trend the Bears hope to reverse in Sunday’s NFC North showdown at Soldier Field.

“We’ve been on the wrong end of it a number of the last times and we need to find a way to get on the plus side and come out of this game with a victory,” said offensive coordinator Mike Tice.

Since joining the Bears, Jay Cutler is 1-6 versus the Packers, completing 54.4 percent of his passes for 1,647 yards with eight touchdowns, 16 interceptions and a 58.9 passer rating.

Asked what the offense must do better against Green Bay, Cutler said: “A lot of things. It’s not one area. I’ve got to play better, first and foremost, and get the rest of the guys up to speed with me. You’ve got to run the ball better. You’ve got to pass the ball better. You’ve got to block better. There’s no one area that we can’t improve in.”

In their Week 2 loss in Green Bay, the Bears mustered just one touchdown and 168 total yards while Cutler threw four interceptions and was sacked seven times.

“They are fast and they are very athletic,” Tice said. “They play with great intensity. They try to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage, whether that be pass rush or the outside linebackers penetrating.”

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Mare thrilled to be back on NFL roster

Posted by Larry Mayer on December 12, 2012 – 4:18 pm

Out of the NFL for the first time in 15 years, Olindo Mare patiently waited for the opportunity that finally came Tuesday when he was signed by the Bears to replace the injured Robbie Gould.

“It’s always hard when your routine for so long has been set for you and then you look forward to it and something happens and it’s broke up,” Mare said Wednesday. “But I have been busy.

“I kicked three days a week with a buddy of mine. Other than that, I was just being a dad of four and going to kids’ practices and games and stuff.”

Mare has converted 81.2 percent of his field-goal attempts (350 of 431) in 15 NFL seasons with the Dolphins (1997-2006), Saints (2007), Seahawks (2008-10) and Panthers (2011). Last year Mare made 22 of 28 field goal tries (78.6 percent) for Carolina.

Mare won a five-man kicking competition Tuesday to replace Gould, who strained his left calf muscle during pre-game warm-ups Sunday in Minnesota but still kicked two extra points. Gould was placed on injured reserve, making him ineligible to return this season, even in the playoffs.

“We just felt with the muscle injury that he had it would take him a while,” said coach Lovie Smith. “I just felt like we needed to get another kicker in here, which we were able to do with Olindo Mare. Robbie will start his rehab and before you know it he’ll be back out there with us, but he has an injury and we needed to go a different direction.”

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Ailing Bears adjust practice schedule

Posted by Larry Mayer on December 12, 2012 – 3:11 pm

Decimated by injuries, the Bears held a walkthrough instead of a regular practice Wednesday as they began preparing for Sunday’s NFC North clash against the Packers at Soldier Field.

Had the Bears practiced, 11 players would have been unable to participate: Earl Bennett (concussion), Lance Briggs (knee/hip), Michael Bush (ribs), Jay Cutler (neck/knee), Kellen Davis (knee), Geno Hayes (knee), Tim Jennings (shoulder), Shea McClellin (knee), Henry Melton (chest), Jonathan Scott (shoulder) and Brian Urlacher (hamstring).

“We have a lot of guys banged up,” said coach Lovie Smith. “I just felt like we could get more work done [via meetings and a walkthrough]. We’re just not going to have our full-fledged practice that we would normally have on a Wednesday.

“After a Monday night game we push it back a little bit to let the guys really heal up. We just felt like another day to heal up would benefit us more than trying to go out there and having guys double up on a lot of things.”

Smith obviously doesn’t think that not practicing Wednesday will hurt the Bears Sunday.

“It’s the Green Bay Packers,” he said. “We know each other well. So we’ll be fine. That won’t be an issue in the end. If anything that may be that little boost, that little change of pace. If things aren’t going exactly how you want them, changing up the routine isn’t always a bad thing.”

Cutler, who said he’s feeling good and will be ready to play Sunday, agreed with the move.

“I think it’s a smart decision,” he said. “A lot of guys are banged up. You get to this point of the season and you hope guys can be smart enough to take a mental day and be able to process mental information and still be prepared on Sunday.”

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Jennings, Melton at top of Pro Bowl voting

Posted by Larry Mayer on December 12, 2012 – 1:34 pm

Ten Bears rank in the top five at their respective positions in the latest fan balloting for the NFC Pro Bowl team, the NFL announced Wednesday.

Tim Jennings (263,554 votes) and Charles Tillman (189,632) are the top vote-getters at cornerback, while Henry Melton (214,180) leads all defensive tackles and Brandon Marshall (389,725) is second at wide receiver behind the Giants’ Victor Cruz (438,665).

Strong safety Major Wright (88,523) and kick returner Devin Hester (89,630) are third; defensive end Julius Peppers (148,068), middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (112,383) and special teams ace Blake Costanzo (47,736) are fourth; and outside linebacker Lance Briggs (128,841) is fifth.

Pro Bowl voting will continue online and on mobile phones via NFL.com/probowl through Monday, Dec. 17. The teams will be announced at 6 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday, Dec. 26 on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access.”

The Pro Bowl will be played on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013, a week before Super Bowl XLVII, and televised live on NBC at 6 p.m. (CT) from Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

The all-star squads are based on the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counts one-third toward determining the 43-man rosters that represent NFC and AFC. NFL players and coaches will cast their votes Dec. 20-21.

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