Bears always up for a challenge
By Mark Potash email@example.com November 8, 2011 10:51PM
Chicago Bears v Philadelphia Eagles
Updated: December 10, 2011 9:58AM
The Bears improved their playoff position by beating the Philadelphia Eagles 30-24 on Monday night. But at 5-3 with three consecutive victories, they’re hardly in the clear.
Though they easily beat the spread as eight-point underdogs and might even have earned some respect with an impressive showing before a national audience on ‘‘Monday Night Football,’’ they have another difficult game Sunday against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.
Not only will the Bears be playing on a short week after playing on ‘‘MNF,’’ but the Lions, besides being really good, are coming off a bye and figure to be rested and ready for the rematch of their 24-13 victory over the Bears at Ford Field in a Monday night game on Oct. 10. The Lions lost to the San Francisco 49ers 25-19 and to the Atlanta Falcons 23-16 at home after beating the Bears. They beat the Denver Broncos 45-10 on the road Oct. 30 to go 4-0 away from home this season.
NFL teams are 9-3 after their bye in the last two weeks, and 4-6 after playing on ‘‘MNF.’’ The Bears at least are playing at home — for the first time since beating the Minnesota Vikings 39-10 on Oct. 16 — and might have one other factor in their favor: They’ve been playing ‘‘out of rhythm’’ or with some kind of distraction most of the season.
The Bears have played four consecutive night games. They’ve traveled overseas to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London. They’ve already played two ‘‘MNF’’ games on the road. They’ve played before sellout crowds in two domes. They’ve faced a difficult schedule that includes the Green Bay Packers (8-0), Lions (6-2), New Orleans Saints (6-3) and Falcons (5-3), plus the talented Eagles (3-5).
The Bears are still straddling the fine line between playoff contention and the pack of mediocrity in the NFL. But playing on a short week in a 3:15 p.m. game, even against a quality team, is a challenge they can handle. They’ve been doing it all season.
Garza gets a raise
The Bears have rewarded center Roberto Garza with a two-year contract extension worth $6.55 million, including $2.6 million guaranteed. He was in the final year of a six-year, $14 million deal he signed after the 2005 season. He’s making $2.1 million this season.
Garza, an 11-year veteran in his seventh year with the Bears, has been a key factor in the Bears’ start that has them in position to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season. He replaced Olin Kreutz at center on short notice when the Bears failed to reach an agreement with Kreutz on a contract at the start of training camp in July. He also replaced Kreutz as an offensive captain, a role he is not all that comfortable with but has filled admirably in place of the more effusive Kreutz.
Like fine wine
Brian Urlacher always seems to rise to the occasion against Michael Vick. Urlacher had 11 tackles, one tackle for loss and two pass breakups in the Bears’ victory against the Eagles.
‘‘Brian is getting better and better and getting faster as he gets older,’’ Vick said. ‘‘These guys are aging well, and hopefully I do the same.’’
A matter of respect
Wide receivers Earl Bennett (five receptions, 95 yards, one touchdown), Roy Williams (3-46), Johnny Knox (1-14) and Devin Hester (1-12) combined for 10 receptions for 167 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles — outplaying Philadelphia’s more heralded DeSean Jackson (2-16) and Jeremy Maclin (4-63).
‘‘Going into the game, our receivers were tired of hearing about their receivers and felt like they needed to do something about it,’’ coach Lovie Smith said.
The Bears responded impressively after the Eagles scored two touchdowns in a 2:26 span of the third quarter to take a 24-17 lead.
‘‘We have great leadership,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We have a lot of guys that have been around here for a while. They’ve been in those situations. They know it’s a 60-minute game, and you have to stay the course. When you’re a good football team, you do those things, and we’re a good football team.
‘‘[We’re] not getting a whole lot of respect. When you go on the road, the Chicago Bears shouldn’t be eight-point underdogs. Our guys took notice of that.’’