Chicago defense showing some wear, tear

The Chicago Bears’ defense is finding it difficult to close out

games and showing signs of some real wear and tear.

Playing without injured linebacker Brian Urlacher and with

several other lineup changes, the Bears will have to find a way to

turn it around Sunday against a Minnesota Vikings offense that can

run opponents into the ground behind Adrian Peterson. A win would

also help erase the sting of the 23-17 overtime loss to Seattle at

Soldier Field last weekend.

”That locker room, I know a lot of guys left that field pretty

(ticked) off and you want another opportunity like that because

games like that you shouldn’t allow to slip away,” linebacker

Lance Briggs said. ”And we’ve done that more than once this year.

We need to show up in the critical situations.”

The Bears defense has failed on three of the last four attempts

when handed an opportunity to close out a game. Tim Tebow also beat

them last year in overtime after rallying the Broncos on their

final drive of regulation.

With five 30-something players, the conditioning and stamina of

the defense has been closely watched. They allowed Seattle to

convert eight of 15 third downs, a season’s worst 53 percent.

”Third downs are critical in this league, critical,” Bears

defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. ”You’ve got to get off

the field, because our offense does a nice job of controlling the

clock. That’s something we’ve been pretty good at through most of

the year but that’s something we have got to be on top of.”

The Bears have also allowed seven scores in the closing 3 1/2

minutes of the first half.

Staying fresh against Peterson, the NFL’s rushing leader, and a

Vikings offense that is likely to stress ball control with top wide

receiver Percy Harvin now on injured reserve (ankle), isn’t likely

to be easy. Doing it without Urlacher, and with different players

manning four positions on defense will be even more difficult.

Without Urlacher for at least three weeks due to a pulled

hamstring, the Bears are moving Nick Roach to the middle linebacker

and replacing him on the strongside with free agent acquisition

Geno Hayes.

The Bears did not consider moving Briggs from his weakside

linebacker spot to the middle because they didn’t want to weaken

his position while also playing with an inexperienced middle

linebacker.

”This is my 10th year and I’ve never played Mike (middle

backer) in my 10 years,” Briggs said. ”It would be easier for me

to play Sam (strong), it would be easier for me to play nickel

(back) than it would for me to play Mike. I could play it. All of

us could play it because the positions are interchangeable. But I

don’t want to play it.”

Coach Lovie Smith supports Briggs’ stance.

”Will we ever do that? No,” he said. ”Lance won’t be playing

`Mike’ linebacker unless we have everyone else go down and then we

would maybe call on him then, but that’s not a part of what we’re

looking at.”

Hayes was a weakside linebacker in Tampa who has been playing

strongside in Chicago. The other changes will likely be Kelvin

Hayden moving from nickel back to starting left cornerback for

injured NFL interception leader Tim Jennings, who missed a second

straight practice with a shoulder injury, and D.J. Moore replacing

Hayden at nickel back.

The changes could make it tough for a defense that has been

struggling against the run. No one rushed for more than 106 yards

against the Bears in the first six games. No one has rushed for

less than 114 against them in the last six and Peterson is coming

off a 210-yard performance against Green Bay, his sixth straight

100-yard game.

”I’m pretty sure that the main thing that makes their offense

tick is Adrian Peterson, so our main goal is to stop him and to

force them to try to go to their second option,” Hayden said.

NOTES: Wide receiver Earl Bennett has been ruled out for

Sunday’s game due to a concussion. … Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery

(knee) and wide receiver Devin Hester (concussion) practiced on a

limited basis for the second straight day. … Running back Michael

Bush missed a second straight practice due to a rib injury, but

Smith said he expects Bush will be ready to play Sunday.

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