Bears want to shed red zone woes vs Saints

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Avoiding another red zone rut remains high on the priority list of quarterback Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears offense heading into Sunday's game at New Orleans.

The Bears finished 30th in overall scoring percentage (78.4) from inside the red zone last year, and when they settled for two field goals and a touchdown in three trips inside the Atlanta 20 during Sunday's season-opening 30-12 rout of the Falcons, it brought back some bad memories.

''We started off pretty good, but we've just got to get better in the red zone,'' quarterback Jay Cutler said. ''We've just got to hammer out some of these details because we left 14-21 points off the board.''

Cutler called an overthrown screen pass for a certain touchdown to tight end Kellen Davis the most aggravating play.

''I think we were very close,'' offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. ''We had a couple penalties, which happened to us early last year, and we just missed the screen a little bit.

''Again, in terms of the first game, we had some very minor things happen to us that kept us from being even a little bit more effective down there.''

It didn't help that running back Marion Barber missed the game with a calf injury. Barber's role is short-yardage back, and he returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis -- the first time has practiced since his injury in the third week of preseason.

Cutler sees the potential for great production in the red zone because tight ends Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis both are versatile. Spaeth caught a 1-yard play-action TD pass Sunday for the only red zone TD.

''Kellen and Matt, they're a little bit different,'' Cutler said. ''They can block, they can run, the can catch for us.

''They're guys that can stay in there in our nickel situations and even two-minute and stuff.''

The greatest potential problem for Cutler and the Bears offense in the red zone against New Orleans could be noise.

The offensive line may have Chris Spencer or Edwin Williams starting for injured right guard Lance Louis, who sat out Wednesday. Both Spencer and Williams took snaps Wednesday with the first team in his place.

''Going in, I felt we had much more depth than we had last year, and it's already come to a head where we've had to show that depth early on,'' offensive line coach Mike Tice said.

Cutler may also be short on wide receivers for the game. Roy Williams, who suffered a groin strain in the game, did not practice Wednesday.

The offense is far better prepared now to handle such injuries with six wide receivers who seem to be interchangeable. Nine different players caught passes Sunday, including all five wide receivers who played.

''We talked about it before in training camp, of not really having a No. 1 guy in this offense,'' Cutler said. ''You don't really need one because it's going to be by committee, everyone's going to get to touch the ball.

''I don't know where it's going to go until I'm three, four, five steps into the drop and the coverage really dictates itself.''

Notes: Starting safety Chris Harris is nursing a hamstring pull and missed practice. If he can't play Sunday, former New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather would get his first Bears start. ... Coach Lovie Smith said the team will let linebacker Brian Urlacher have as much time as possible to grieve after the death of his mother, so they won't know if he's available or Sunday's game until late in the week. Smith said Urlacher was one of the first to phone him after his own mother died in the offseason. ''Unless you've been through it, there's no way to make it any better than it is at the time, but he'll get through it,'' Smith said.

Tagged: Bears, Roy Williams, Chris Spencer, Jay Cutler, Matt Spaeth, Kellen Davis, Edwin Williams

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