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Bears’ new-look linebacking corps faces giant challenge in Packers’ Rodgers

B Lance Briggs (11 tackles one TFL) Nick Roach (9 tackles 2 TFLs ) picked it up with Brian Urlacher

LINEBACKERS: B Lance Briggs (11 tackles, one TFL) and Nick Roach (9 tackles, 2 TFLs ) picked it up with Brian Urlacher out. But one mistake was costly and they were unable to make a big-enough play.

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Updated: January 15, 2013 11:44AM

Bears linebackers Nick Roach and Geno Hayes described their first games in their new starting positions similarly after losing 21-14 against the Minnesota Vikings.

“It could have been better because obviously it wasn’t good enough because we got beat, but I’ll build off of it,” Roach said.

“I can’t complain about my performance, but we didn’t come out with a ‘W,’ so it wasn’t good enough,” Hayes said.

Neither Roach, who is in the middle with Brian Urlacher sidelined, nor Hayes, who is on the strong side, had any glaring mistakes against the Vikings. If anything, they performed well after a rough first quarter for the Bears’ defense.

“They had a good solid game and we expect them to continue to improve,” defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said.

But the Packers — with quarterback Aaron Rodgers — are a different animal. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is the scant, Charlie Brown-like Christmas tree that Brandon Marshall displayed, while Rodgers is the giant, adorned tree at the Walnut Room in Macy’s.

“Rodgers makes [their offense] go,” Roach said.

For a while, Rodgers’ numbers were significantly worse against the Bears than his career averages. The Bears’ cover-2 scheme forced the big-play minded QB to be patient. But that’s starting to change.

Rodgers has completed 71.7 percent of his passes for 799 yards, nine touchdowns, two interceptions and a 117.4 passer rating in his last three games against the Bears.

Roach, in particular, may be tested if Rodgers elects to see if he can turn and run in coverage like Urlacher has done for years.

“If you can do a good job of defending their passing game, then you’ve got a good chance to win,” Roach said.

Does Marinelli see Sunday as a bigger test for Roach and Hayes?

“Oh, yeah,” Marinelli said. “But both those guys are really good in space, really good athletic guys in coverage. We’re very confident in our people and what they’re doing. So we’re excited about the challenge.”

Cutler’s knee injury?

Jay Cutler was limited in practice with not only his neck injury but a knee issue. Coach Lovie Smith downplayed his knee injury.

“He practiced without any trouble at all,” Smith said. “After a hard-fought game like that on the [Metrodome] turf, you sometimes have some bumps that last a little bit longer.”

The rundown

Urlacher (hamstring) wasn’t officially ruled out on Thursday, but he won’t play Sunday.

“Don’t know exactly when he’ll be back,” Smith said.

† Cornerback Tim Jennings (dislocated shoulder) didn’t practice and his availability remains in doubt, but Smith said he is getting “a lot” better.

† Defensive end Shea McClellin (knee), running back Michael Bush (ribs) and wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion) were held out of practice.

† Defensive tackle Henry Melton has been dealing with a chest injury, but he was excused Thursday for personal reasons.

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