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Major Wright does wrong as Brian Urlacher sprains knee

Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher twists his left knee fourth quarter. He suffered sprained medial collateral ligament. | Andy King~AP

Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher twists his left knee in the fourth quarter. He suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament. | Andy King~AP

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Updated: February 3, 2012 8:15AM



MINNEAPOLIS — It was a play that typified the Bears’ demise this season — the aggressiveness that makes the Bears’ defense what it is worked against the team Sunday.

At least it seemed to when safety Major Wright saw a ball in the air in the end zone in the fourth quarter, tried to make a play and instead jumped on middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament when his left leg bent awkwardly as he fell.

Vikings quarterback Joe Webb’s pass for Percy Harvin was incomplete. So the Bears ended up with a consolation victory and the future of their best defensive player in doubt — that might not end up being a net gain.

‘‘Our defense is coached to go after the ball; I went after the ball,’’ Wright said. ‘‘I landed on him, and I don’t know what happened. [But] you gotta go after the ball. You can’t not go after it and let the [receiver] catch it.’’

Urlacher, in the middle of the end zone in front of Harvin, appeared to have a bead on the ball. Wright came from his left side but said he didn’t see that.

‘‘No, I felt the receiver, and I just went up,’’ Wright said. ‘‘At the last minute, I see him going up, too. I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to go for the ball, as well.’ ’’

That’s how things went for the Bears’ defense in the last six games after quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a broken right thumb:

◆ When Urlacher had a bead on Tyler Palko’s Hail Mary pass at the end of the first half against the Chiefs, rookie safety Chris Conte came up from behind, and the ball was batted right to Dexter McCluster for a touchdown in a 10-3 loss.

◆ The defense held Tim Tebow and the Broncos to 144 yards on 45 plays through three quarters. But with little help from the offense, it faltered in the fourth quarter and overtime in a 13-10 loss.

◆ The Bears’ defense even scored against the Seahawks on Dec. 18, and it wasn’t enough. After holding the Seahawks to 84 yards on 29 plays in the first half, the defense wilted in the second half in a 38-14 loss.

‘‘It was just one of those years,’’ said defensive end Israel Idonije, who had five tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries in an inspired effort in the finale. ‘‘Every once in a while, seasons are like that.’’

On Sunday, the Bears’ defense had three takeaways — after getting only four in the first five games without Cutler — and still barely won.

But win they did, which was all that mattered — except for Urlacher’s unknown status, that is — to a team that was so quick to turn the page on 2011 that Idonije was already referring to this season as ‘‘last year.’’

‘‘The focus right now is preparation for the new season,’’ Idonije said. ‘‘Coach [Lovie Smith] always talks about starting off the 2012 year 1-0, and that’s what we [did]. Last year was tough. Guys were banged up. We’ve got a lot of talent on this team. It’s time to rebuild, get healthy and be ready for a championship year in 2012.’’

Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman echoed that sentiment. Asked about the Bears’ prospects for next year, he corrected reporters.

‘‘ ‘Next year’ is this year,’’ Tillman said. ‘‘It’s not ‘next year.’ It’s ‘this year.’ I think 2012’s our year.’’



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