Bears looking more like playoff team than rebuilding team
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Chicago cornerback Tracy Porter played on a Super Bowl champion in New Orleans, so he knows what a playoff team looks like.
The way he sees it, the Bears resemble one.
''There are definitely ingredients here for a playoff team, for us to take it to that next level,'' Porter said.
After a rare win at Green Bay, the Bears (5-6) have a chance to hit the .500 mark and strengthen their postseason credentials when they host struggling San Francisco on Sunday.
The mere idea that they would be in this position so late in the season seemed far-fetched at best, particularly after three convincing losses to start the season. But ever since a shutout loss at Seattle in Week 3, they have flipped the script.
With quarterback Jay Cutler's steady play and an improved defense making clutch plays, Chicago has emerged as a contender for a playoff spot in the NFC.
''I think the whole thing is having meaningful or relevant games,'' coach John Fox said Monday. ''You want to put yourself in that position, but you definitely want to keep the focus small. All our focus right now is on the San Francisco 49ers.''
The 49ers (3-8) come in last in the NFC West after back-to-back losses and are 0-5 on the road. That would seem to bode well for a Bears team that regained its footing after loss at home to Denver by knocking off Aaron Rodgers and the Packers last Thursday.
The victory was just the second in eight games at Lambeau Field for Chicago. Not only did the Bears spoil Brett Favre's jersey retirement celebration, they held Rodgers to his worst passer rating as a starter at Lambeau (62.4).
The Bears also stopped the Packers after they drove to the 8 in the closing minute, with Rodgers throwing four incomplete passes. Porter, who played for Fox in Denver, broke up one intended for James Jones in the end zone on third-and-goal after coming through with an interception on Green Bay's previous possession.
''He's one of the smarter corners I've played with,'' said safety Chris Prosinski, who in his second start filling in for the injured Antrel Rolle forced a fumble that led to a touchdown. ''A lot of times you have safeties giving corners calls. In this case a lot of times Tracy is on top of it and is actually making calls before us.''
It didn't hurt, either, that Cutler continued his steady play behind center, throwing for 200 yards and a touchdown without getting picked off. It was the third time in five games he did not throw an interception, and with just six in 10 games, he is well off the pace that left him tied for the league lead with 18 a year ago. In 2014, he had 12 through his first 10 games.
The improved play at quarterback and from a rebuilt defense have helped the Bears weather injuries on both sides while trying to find the right mix.
There still is room for improvement, particularly when it comes to stopping the run. The Bears ranked 29th in that area through Sunday, but the defense was 14th overall. That's a big jump for a unit that ranked among the worst in franchise history the past two years. And it's one of the reasons the Bears are starting to look more like a playoff team.
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