Bears back from bye, Lions up next
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)
While the Chicago Bears appreciate their place atop the NFC North standings, they know they won't enjoy the view for long unless some big changes occur on offense.
The Bears (4-1) had a bye over the weekend and took over the division lead because of Minnesota's 38-26 loss to the Washington Redskins.
''It's not bad - without playing, that's not bad,'' tight end Kellen Davis said Monday. ''You can't beat that really.''
Still, Detroit (2-3) and Green Bay (3-3) both won on Sunday, keeping the Bears from getting too excited about their half-game lead over the Vikings (4-2) as they began preparations for next Monday night's game against the Lions.
''It's a tough division,'' cornerback Tim Jennings said. ''It's going to be up and down, but once November, December hits, that's when teams start to get in stride and figure out who they are, try to identify themselves and get going for the playoffs.''
The Bears play only their second divisional game of the season against the Lions.
''Our division took a step up,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ''But as I told the team today, none of that really matters for us. We like the position we're in. Any week you have to be ready to go to play your best football. That's what I saw from this weekend. Teams that played 60 minutes or more end up winning the football game. Detroit, this week ... I'm sure they've been waiting for this game for a long time.''
To stay where they are, the Bears offense has to come around both in the running and passing games to complement a defense that has been dominant.
The passing attack took a hit with the loss of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, reportedly to a fractured hand. The rookie has 14 catches, but the Bears will get wide receiver Earl Bennett back from a two-game absence due to a hand injury.
Bennett went through a full practice Monday and deemed himself fit.
''Those guys (teammates) are out there making plays, just having fun,'' Bennett said. ''We're winning and it's tough to sit back and just watch and not be a part of the fun.''
Even with Jeffery making 14 catches and wide receiver Brandon Marshall tied for ninth in the league with Detroit's Calvin Johnson at 35 catches, the Bears passing game ranks only 23rd (222.6 yards per game).
The running game had struggled until the Week 5 blowout win over Jacksonville, when running back Matt Forte went over the 100-yard mark for the first time since Nov. 7, 2011. The 214-yard team rushing effort in the Jacksonville win pushed the Bears up to 10th at 123.6 yards per game but didn't hide earlier inconsistency.
''We have to be solid in the run game,'' Davis said. ''We started up a little bit last week, got Matt over 100 and got 200 yards on the ground, which is big for us. So hopefully we'll shoot for getting him over 100 (against Detroit). We might not get 200, but that would be great too.''