Bears get reprieve with Rams win
Alex Brown wasn't about to make any bold proclamations. The defensive end sees what's staring at the Chicago Bears and that's a dose of reality.
A 17-9 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday was a nice, refreshing reprieve for a team that had dropped four in a row and six of seven. Brown, however, wasn't checking the standings.
``I don't know the chances, I'm not a math guy, but if there is a possibility, we just got to win,'' he said.
At 5-7, the Bears will likely miss the postseason for the third straight year and are starting a tough three-game stretch with Green Bay and continues with Baltimore and Minnesota - all teams with playoff aspirations.
It would help if the Bears had Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs and receiver Devin Hester, but their status is in question. Briggs sat out the Rams game because of a sprained left knee, and Hester left with a calf injury after being hit for a loss early in the third quarter.
Coach Lovie Smith said ``hopefully'' Hester's injury is not too serious and they'll ``have him back out there before too long.''
Hester had a shining moment before leaving the field when he leaped between two defenders on a 48-yard catch that helped set up Chicago's first touchdown. He was hit for a 3-yard loss on his lone punt return. Several other punts were downed by the Rams, pinning the Bears deep, yet Chicago still managed to prevail in a win only Brian Urlacher could love.
The injured linebacker last week took what many interpreted as shots at Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte while wondering why the Bears were relying more on the pass than the run and their defense. Then, they reverted to their old formula after a strong first quarter by Cutler that included a 71-yard pass along with that deep throw to Hester.
Cutler had 131 yards in that opening period. He threw for only 12 more the rest of the way.
A running game that ranked dead last did a somewhat better job with Chris Williams filling in for the injured Orlando Pace (groin) at left tackle and Kevin Shaffer starting on the right side.
Forte ran for 91 yards, the most for him since he had 121 against Detroit in Week 4, yet he also lost a fumble. And the Bears averaged just 3.2 yards on 38 attempts.
Smith said Cutler's strong start ``allowed us to get the rushing game going'' and added, ``Whenever you have 38 rushes, that's a good thing this time of the year.''
Maybe, but the Bears didn't bring in Cutler to be a game manager. Although balance helps, their future largely hinges on the rifle arm he brought from Denver even if he was tied for the league lead with 20 interceptions through Sunday.
Cutler, who did not get picked off by the Rams, did said his throwing hand got ``dinged'' during the game. That wasn't the reason for going with the run, Smith said.
``We had a lead,'' he said. ``Our defense was playing good football. And you try to win the surest way. There's no more than that. Jay should be good to go.''
Smith was particularly impressed by Jamar Williams, who filled in for Briggs at weakside linebacker and was credited with 18 tackles in the postgame stats. So was Brown.
``He's been deserving a lot of credit for coming out and replacing a guy like Lance Briggs, who's probably the best player at his position in the NFL,'' Brown said. ``To come in and play that well for him, I think it says a lot about the guys that we have as far as our backups. ... Hopefully, we see a lot more of him. We still want Briggs, though.''
Williams played his way into a bigger role, perhaps getting more snaps at strongside linebacker or rotating between positions when Briggs returns.
``By his play yesterday, it said that 'I need more reps,''' Smith said. ``We listen, and we watch everything that's happening. We like what we saw.''