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Bears’ defense has Tim Tebow in its sights

Kansas City Chiefs running back Thomas Jones is stopped by Chicago Bears defense first quarter Bears 10-3 loss Kansas City

Kansas City Chiefs running back Thomas Jones is stopped by the Chicago Bears defense in the first quarter of the Bears 10-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday December 4, 2011 at Soldier Field in Chicago. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 7, 2012 8:15AM



Injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte haven’t altered the dynamic of an intriguing showdown Sunday — Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and the Bears defense vs. Tim Tebow.

The Bears are ranked 20th in total defense in the NFL. But with speed and solid tacklers, they are built as well as any to stop the run-oriented Tebow offense. By rushing 34 times and rarely throwing against the Jets, Tebow turned Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis into a liability in the fourth quarter. But the Bears have tacklers all over the field.

‘‘This is option football,’’ Bears coach Lovie Smith said. ‘‘Our defense is based on sound, option principles. But we don’t have a lot of our option responsibilities ironed out each week. So this is forcing a lot of teams in the league to be sound in all of those things.

‘‘But our defense is set up to play this type of offense. They have a unique athlete at quarterback, who can really run over you and throw the ball. He poses a lot of different problems. There will be some challenges with this offense.’’

Who is T.J. Yates?

While Caleb Hanie was struggling in his second NFL start Sunday, Houston Texans rookie T.J. Yates beat the Atlanta Falcons 17-10. Yates, nurtured by former Bears offensive coordinator John Shoop as a four-year starter at North Carolina, was 12 of 25 for 188 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, an 86.8 passer rating — better than Jay Cutler’s 85.8.

Bears backup quarterbacks have a 34.6 passer rating in Mike Martz ’s offense (three touchdown passes, 13 interceptions).

‘‘I think most teams, if they’re using their backup quarterback will struggle a little bit,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Sometimes right away a guy will have a good game. But struggles are part of it.

‘‘Caleb’s our quarterback. And he, like the rest of or team, didn’t play well [Sunday]. But give us a little bit of time. There’s this week — hopefully we’ll see some improvements this week, for our football team.’’

Cheaper by the sack

The Bears were 0-for-11 on third-down conversions against the Chiefs. But the more inexplicable statistic was the Chiefs’ seven sacks. They entered the game with an NFL-low 13 in 11 games.

‘‘If you just look at sack totals, it can throw you off a little bit,’’ Smith said. ‘‘For [the Chiefs], they didn’t have a lot of sacks coming in. But they had gotten pressure. [On Sunday] they were able to just finish the job a little more.’’

Faith in Roy

Wide receiver Roy Williams got away with a bobble earlier this season against the Buccaneers. But he paid a high price for one Sunday, when his drop at the goal line turned into an interception in the fourth quarter. Smith maintained his faith in Williams.

‘‘Roy has done some good things around here,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Yesterday, none of us did as good a job as we need to. Roy’s a part of that. Next time he’ll make that play.’’

Steltz gets the call

When strong safety Major Wright suffered a shoulder sprain and missed the second half Sunday, the Bears went with Craig Steltz instead of Brandon Meriweather to replace him. Steltz led the Bears with 10 tackles.

Smith said the Bears last week committed Meriweather to backing up rookie Chris Conte at free safety.

‘‘It’s hard to back up at both safety positions,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We just let [Meriweather] concentrate backing up the free safety position, and have Craig be the primary backup at the strong position.’’



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