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Bears’ defense won’t point finger at struggling offense

The Bears should have Tim Jennings back giving them better chance force turnovers. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

The Bears should have Tim Jennings back, giving them a better chance to force turnovers. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 23, 2013 6:10AM

Asked whether he believed the Bears’ typically solid defense has been held back by the offense this season and in years past, linebacker Lance Briggs chose not to answer.

At least not now.

“I think that’s a question you have to ask me at the end of the year,” Briggs said. “We win these next two games and we get into the playoffs and make a run … that question, it’s hard to answer right now.”

For all the flak Briggs and Brian Urlacher have gotten for criticizing Bears fans, there hasn’t been much public finger-pointing at the offense from the defense.

That might be because the offense’s best player, receiver Brandon Marshall, already has done it. But it also might be the realization — after years under coach Lovie Smith — that it won’t do much good.

Members of the defense say they can’t focus on the offense’s woes. They have their own issues, starting with getting takeaways again.

“We just focus on what we’ve got to do,” said defensive tackle Henry Melton, who is listed as doubtful for the game Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals with a collarbone injury. “When we’re out there, we don’t really focus on what the offense is doing.

“It’s always great when you hear the crowd go crazy and they put up points, but we play versus the other team’s defense. We’re trying to outplay them. That’s what we go into the game trying to do.”

That should be the story Sunday. The Bears and Cardinals rank 29th and 32nd in offense, respectively. But both defenses force turnovers and pressure the quarterback.

At least the Bears used to.

Other than the debacle in San Francisco, the Bears’ defense has played well enough during the team’s skid to give it a chance to win. But takeaways are such an important part of the Bears’ success that they have been vulnerable without them.

The Bears have a minus-3 turnover differential in their last six games, of which they have lost five. During their 7-1 start, they had a plus-16 differential.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, have forced 16 takeaways (13 interceptions) in their last five games.

“We started off hot,” said cornerback Tim Jennings, who should be active after missing two games with a dislocated shoulder. “But that’s just how the NFL goes. Everybody is good in this league. You have to be consistent.

“You just can’t be one of those teams that goes up and down because around this time in November, December [and] January, that’s when teams start to get hot going into the playoffs. Unfortunately, we’re not one of those teams.”

If there is one positive about the Bears needing to win their final two games, it’s that they are facing two mistake-prone teams who are out of contention (they visit the Detroit Lions on Dec. 30). Other playoff contenders, such as the Minnesota Vikings, have much tougher schedules.

The Bears have said they don’t know much about Cardinals rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley. Perhaps all they need to know is that he has six interceptions and two fumbles without a touchdown pass in five games. The Cardinals, who start rookies at both tackles, also have allowed the most sacks this season at 52.

“Guys are going to take care of business,” Briggs said. “We’re playing for something.”

In other words, the Bears’ defense has no time to feel frustrated, despite not really being at fault for the team’s skid.

“This is literally my worst nightmare,” Briggs said. “But we still have a chance, though, to get into the playoffs. It can’t get any worse than this, I hope.

“Let’s just focus on beating Arizona and go from there.”

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