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Bears believe they can get by without Cutler

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LAKE FOREST, Ill (AP)

Even without Jay Cutler, the Bears believe they are good enough to get by.

With perennial Pro Bowl picks such as Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs, not to mention Devin Hester and Matt Forte, it might be premature to write off Chicago.

''Our football team is not based on one player,'' coach Lovie Smith said.

Losing Cutler to a broken thumb on his right throwing hand is a big blow for a team contending in the NFC, but the Bears (7-3) believe they have enough to make a postseason run. With a favorable schedule, a 3-3 finish is not out of reach. That would get them to 10 wins and put them in good position to make the playoffs.

Smith said the injury Cutler suffered against San Diego on Sunday was not season-ending, but with the unproven Caleb Hanie filling in, they'll have to pick up the slack in other areas.

With a sturdy defense, a record-setting return specialist (Hester) and a running back having a career year (Forte), the Bears might not be in such bad shape.

There are tough games at Oakland this week and Green Bay on Dec. 25, but there are also less daunting home matchups against Kansas City and Seattle and trips to Denver and Minnesota.

The Packers (10-0) are the only team in that group with a better record than the Bears. The Raiders (6-4) are above .500, but the rest are at or below that mark.

''I wish it wasn't the issue, but I think you look at the way we're set up, in my mind, we're still a defensive team and (on) special teams, we can score at any time, which is a good thing,'' Urlacher said. ''We run the ball this year better than we have in years past, I think, so that helps our whole situation when you can do that and turn to a guy like Matt and your offensive line and say, `Hey, we need to run the football. Run the football.'''

They'll need to get more from their defense and more from Forte than they did last week in a 31-20 win over San Diego.

Dominant in a 37-13 romp over Detroit, the Bears struggled for three quarters with Philip Rivers (280 yards) but won their fifth straight while handing the Chargers their fifth loss in a row.

A defense that intercepted Matthew Stafford four times and got six takeaways against the Lions, wasn't as effective last week. The Bears didn't register a sack even though the Chargers were down three injured starters on their offensive line, but they came away with two interceptions in the fourth quarter - one by Major Wright in the end zone.

With Rivers getting picked off and Chicago dominating the clock, the Chargers did not pick up a yard in the fourth quarter after racking up 332 in the first three. That finish aside, the Bears will need more from a defense that ranks 25th at 371.9 yards allowed per game.

''We're going to have to play better,'' Urlacher said. ''That's our mind-set right now is we're going to have to carry this team.

''We can do that. We've done it in the past. We've just got to do it again. No more mistakes from us.''

Back in 2005, the Bears were forced to go with rookie Kyle Orton after Rex Grossman was injured in the preseason and went 10-5 with him as their starter on the way to an 11-win season and NFC North championship. Of course they did that mainly because of a dominant defense and a solid run game, with a top-tier line clearing the way.

Forte has been solid running behind shaky but improving blockers.

He's fourth in the league with 926 yards rushing and is averaging 5.0 per carry, but he's been quiet the past two weeks after a five-game stretch in which he ran for 116 or more four times. He had 57 yards against the Chargers after finishing with 64 against Detroit, but with Cutler out, the Bears figure to lean more on him.

Hanie has thrown 14 regular-season passes in four seasons - none this year. He made some plays against Green Bay in the NFC championship game last year after Cutler got hurt and Todd Collins struggled.

''We're disappointed,'' Smith said. ''Right now we feel bad for Jay. But for our football team, we'll be OK for a while and he'll be back and we'll get him back in there then.''

Tagged: Bears, Chargers, Brian Urlacher, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte

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