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Roberto Garza says Bears’ O-line must step up to lift running game

Updated: December 26, 2011 8:57AM

Despite a five-game winning streak, the Bears’ ability to run the football has tailed off considerably in the last two games.

That hasn’t been a problem, given the play of quarterback Jay Cutler. But with Cutler out, the Bears’ running game needs to improve on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, and center Roberto Garza said the onus lies with his unit.

“It falls squarely on our offensive line,” Garza said. “We have to do our technique better, move those guys and cover those guys up, and make those holes for Matt [Forte] and Marion [Barber] to run through.

“The reason we’re not getting the running game, you can’t look past the offensive line. We’ve got to do a better job.”

During the first three games of the winning streak, the Bears averaged 153 rushing yards. But in the last two, the Bears gained an average of 101 yards, and have averaged just three yards per carry.

Both opponents were determined not to let Forte — who leads the league in yards from scrimmage — run wild on them, often calling on help from a safety.

The Raiders have plenty of respect for Forte.

“He’s a special player, to say the least,” Raiders defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. “He’s playing at an All-Pro level; we’ve got our work cut out for us.

“Our focus is one guy isn’t going to tackle him. We’ve got to gang tackle him.”

The Raiders have the league’s 25th-ranked run defense.

Injury update

Cutler had successful surgery on his right thumb, a team official reported. According to renowned hand surgeon Steve Shin, Cutler should be able to resume throwing the football in about three weeks.

Cornerback D.J. Moore didn’t practice for the Bears on Wednesday, and safety Brandon Meriweather was limited because of a ­concussion.

The Raiders’ receiving corps is thin. Rookie Denarius Moore was held out of practice and wore a protective boot on his right foot. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was out, along with Jacoby Ford (foot) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (neck). The Raiders’ three healthy receivers are Chaz Shilens, Louis Murphy and rookie Eddie McGee, who is on the team’s practice squad.

In brief

Bears fullback Tyler Clutts became a father Monday, when his wife gave birth to a girl, Giada Marie Clutts, in Fresno, Calif.

“It’s been an amazing year,” said Clutts, who was picked up off the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad before the regular season. “Having a daughter is going to be the most memorable thing for me that I’ll ever have.”

◆ The Bears will move up their usual schedule on Thursday to allow ­employees the afternoon to spend with their families on Thanksgiving.

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