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Ten reactions and tidbits from the game:

1. The question all week was how would the Bears defense respond without middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, lost for the season with a dislocated right wrist. It didn't look good from the start as the Steelers rolled up 144 yards offense on their first two possessions. Pittsburgh led just 7-0 because Ben Roethlisberger and rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace clearly were crossed up on an easy interception for Charles Tillman.

From there, the Bears' defense responded. Down two linebackers--Pisa Tinoisamoa missed with a sprained right knee--the Bears used three to fill the void. Hunter Hillenmeyer played middle linebacker and Nick Roach and Jamar Williams shared time on the strong side. On Pittsburgh's next seven possessions, it totaled just 164 yards offense. The difference was with the front seven. The Bears applied pressure and while defensive end Alex Brown got the only two sacks for the unit, Roethlisberger was forced to do two things. First, he had to get rid of the ball quickly. Second, he had to throw short. With the defensive backs doing a good job of tackling, it worked.

There is no question Urlacher was missed, but the defense is accustomed to playing without stars. At some point each of the previous five seasons, the Bears had to deal with the loss of safety Mike Brown. They also were forced to play without tackle Tommie Harris in their march to Super Bowl XLI.

2. In a perfect world, the Bears figured they might get some use out of Johnny Knox, the fifth-round pick from Abilene Christian, as a slot receiver. The club took the smart approach with him and kept it simple in training camp, asking him to just learn one position. The hope was he wouldn't be overloaded like Earl Bennett was last season when he was asked to learn all three positions at one time. Bennett wound up barely seeing the field because the coaches couldn't trust him. That's clearly not the case with Knox, who had a team-high six receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown. After two games, he leads the team with 152 receiving yards. To put that in perspective, last season's starting wide receivers Devin Hester and Rashied Davis each needed five games to amass that many yards.

The Bears had strong feelings for Knox. The area scout Chris Ballard knows Abilene Christian, the Division II program that also produced free safety Danieal Manning, well. Ballard coached in the Lone Star Conference previously at Texas A&M-Kingsville. He knows the coaches in the league and he sees the players frequently. When Knox went from an unknown to running a sub-4.3 40-yard dash at the combine, it only strengthened the Bears' belief in him. Some clubs viewed him as a project because he had spent two years at Tyler Junior College, but the Bears believed with his speed he could contribute quickly.

3. Knox's development looks like it might keep Devin Aromashodu on the bench for a while. Aromashodu won the No. 3 receiving job in preseason and became a favorite target of Jay Cutler quickly. But a pulled quad muscle sidelined him for the opener. Knox had a 68-yard reception at Green Bay, and the coaching staff wasn't about to send him to the sideline. Now, Aromashodu might have to bide his time because the offense hasn't shown much in the way of four-receiver sets, and Rashied Davis' special teams ability will keep him active on game days. When position coach Darryl Drake joked about Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig, well, he wasn't really joking. Of course, Aromashodu can't exactly play the role of Pipp seeing as his next regular-season game in a Bears' uniform will be his first.

HOUSTON--Just finished watching all the Denver-San Diego game I needed to see. We've got a full offseason to review the happenings in the 2008 season but we'll try to address a few things coming out of this game before turning our attention to a flight that leaves (crossing our fingers here) before the sun rises.

1. Since its the offseason, we might as well look ahead and what better event to focus on than the draft. I don't have this firmed up at this point, but my best guess, yes I said guess, is that the Bears will hold the 16th pick in the first round of the draft. They are tied with Dallas, the New York Jets and Tampa Bay as 9-7 clubs that failed to make the postseason.

The first tiebreaker is strength of schedule and the club with the weakest schedule goes first. Given that the Bears had two games with Detroit and one with St. Louis (that's 2-46 right there), I'd have to think they'll edge ahead of the others. Tampa was in the tough NFC South, Dallas was in the tough NFC East and the Jets were also in a competitive division. Stay tuned on this one.

It must have warmed up since the game started. The temperature posed outside a nearby bank on the way home was 5 degrees. Some quick reactions to the Bears' 20-17 overtime victory that keeps them alive in the playoff hunt heading to Houston on Sunday. This one had shades of 2001 and some of the improbable victories the team pulled out this season. This one had some crazy to it, too, with the coin toss by referee Ron Winter at the start of overtime going off the head of Brian Urlacher.

"I looked at the ground the whole time,'' Urlacher said. "I didn't even see it coming. Shoot, I need to get that guy to throw it at my head every time.''

It looked for 3 1/2 quarters like Bobby Wade was on the money. The ex-Bears wide receiver said Sunday the Bears would blow it and hand his current team, Minnesota, the NFC North crown in the process. That didn't happen. Now, the Vikings must defeat the New York Giants Sunday to ensure they make the playoffs, or hope the Bears don't take care of their business in Houston. To the observations:

1. Matt Forte's hard running in the fourth quarter led to the Bears forcing overtime, but this game wouldn't have come close to overtime had it not been for more standout play by the special teams unit. The three biggest plays of the game came on special teams:

A) The offense produced just 48 yards in the first half but the Bears got 70 yards from shot-out-of-a-cannon return man Danieal Manning on his first kickoff return. Trailing 7-0, Manning blasted up the middle, carrying would-be tacklers for the final 25 yards. That put the offense in position for the only points of the first half--Robbie Gould's 31-yard field goal.

B) Down 14-3 at the start of the third quarter, the offense went three-and-punt but Brad Maynard's kick was short and Rashied Davis managed to block Jarrett Bush into the bouncing ball. Jason Davis covered the muff, setting the offense up on Green Bay's 27-yard line and leading to Kyle Orton's three-yard touchdown toss to Greg Olsen.

C) Alex Brown's block of Mason Crosby's potential game-winning kick with 18 seconds left forced overtime. Brown typically lines up on the left side of the formation but saw a weakness he felt he could exploit on the other side vs, the left guard. He made a swim move, broke through and easily blocked what was a low kick.

Find a way the Bears get through this game without their most consistent phase carrying them through. You can't. And Gould becomes the first kicker to win consecutive games in overtime since 2000.

Some quick reactions from the Bears' 27-24 overtime victory as they ended the Saints' season for the third straight year:

*** If that was not the best game by middle linebacker Brian Urlacher this season, it was his best game in some time. Urlacher led the defense in tackles, according to press box statistics, with 10. It's the first time Urlacher has led the team in tackles since Week 4 when he tied with safety Kevin Payne at the top of the list with 10 against Philadelphia. It's also the first time he's been the outright leader in tackles for a game as he tied with Lance Briggs for top honors in the opener at Indianapolis.

Of course, numbers from this game are not official yet, but you didn't need to study the stat sheet to know he made an impact. Urlacher was solid in the run game which gave up a 42-yard touchdown to Pierre Thomas but still managed to limit the Saints to 3.7 yards per carry--119 yards on 32 rushes. Urlacher was also given credit for a pass defense.

"The No. 1 offense poses a big challenge,'' he said of the Saints. "They have the No. 1 quarterback in the NFL and they're running the ball better than they have in the past. It was a big challenge for us overall. We played better in the first half than we did in the second half but we made enough plays to win the game."

The Bears have the quick turnaround this week with their first ever home appearance on NFL Network Thursday against New Orleans.

Four days to prepare for the next game is never easy for any club but the Bears' home-field advantage could be magnified here and we're not even going to bother getting in to the overdone story regarding the weather and how cold it could be come kickoff at Soldier Field. New Orleans is a completely different team away from the Superdome. The Saints are 1-5 on the road and that poor record away from home will be put further to the test in this meeting.

Players and coaches are in meetings today reviewing the 23-10 victory over Jacksonville and laying a little groundwork for the gameplan this week. There will be a regular practice Tuesday and then a walk-through Wednesday. That's it. Before we move forward, some quick thoughts on the game Sunday:

*** The only thing that would have been better for the Bears than a victory by Detroit on Sunday was the return to form of Kyle Orton. He looked sharp and would have been even sharper had his receivers not suffered from a case of the dropsies. Orton made one bad throw the entire game and had command. Yes, the offense stunk in the second half with four three-and-punts, but the game was over. It was 20-3 and the Jaguars had packed it in. Those clamoring about the poor performance in the second half need to realize Jacksonville never got back into that game.

MINNEAPOLIS--Ten quick reactions late at night before an early-morning flight after an ugly 34-14 loss for the Bears ...

1. As an interested onlooker in the StarCaps situation, no one is keeping a closer eye on things right now than the Bears. Expectations are that the NFL will rule on the appeals made by Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams on Monday or Tuesday. They've both received four-game suspensions for violation of the league's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances. They'e had their appeals and are waiting with others on a decision.

We're not even going to begin to attempt to tackle all of the elements in play here, but the bottom line is the Vikings would be a dramatically different team without the Williams Wall at the middle of their defense. Now trailing the Vikings by a game in the division, the Bears can only hope that wall crumbles.

2. Long before Kyle Orton had his consecutive passes streak without an interception snapped at 206 in the third quarter, it was a bad night for him. Orton wound up with three picks and could have had that many in the first half also the way some of his passes were bouncing around off Vikings defenders. He didn't get any help from his receivers dropping balls either.

"The passing game needs to step up," Orton said. "I need to step up."

ST. LOUIS--The Bears' six-game season just became a five-game season. Here we go.

There is not going to be any time to celebrate today's 27-3 victory over the hapless St. Louis Rams. The Bears travel to Minnesota for an appearance on NBC's "Sunday Night Football" this coming week with both teams 6-5 and the Green Bay Packers (5-5) in a critical game at New Orleans Monday night.

Some rambling thoughts while watching Indianapolis-Green Bay at my hotel in the shadow of the Arch:

*** Matt Forte looked strong in rushing for a season-high 132 yards on 20 carries. The 47-yard touchdown run he had in the second quarter helped boost his season average to 4.0 yards per carry. That's a nice plateau to reach and if he can improve it down the stretch, that will bode very well for the Bears. With 909 yards on the season (fifth in the league), Forte is on pace to have 1,322 yards and that could secure offensive rookie of the year honors for him when considering he already has six rushing touchdowns and three touchdown catches.

*** If tight end Desmond Clark is out for any length of time with his right knee injury, offensive coordinator Ron Turner is going to have to take a long look at the playbook. The offense has been very reliant on double tight end sets and Clark is far and away the best blocker of the group. Third tight end Kellen Davis is a rookie and turning to him for the 40-plus snaps a game Clark has been getting would be turning yo an unproven player.

The Bears' run defense could not have been any better than it was in the 21-14 loss to Tennessee this afternoon.

The Titans were held to 20 yards rushing on 29 carries. Any time a team has more runs for no gain or a loss of yardage than it does actual gains, well, the defense is working.

But there was no answer for Kerry Collins, the quarterback who came in having not passed for 200 yards this season. Yeah, the same guy who had gone the last three games without throwing a touchdown pass.

That didn't stop the Bears from making him look like a new man as Collins passed for 289 yards, completing 30-of-41 passes. He had two touchdown passes and was sacked just once as the pass rush was minimal, at best, even with an array of blitzes.

This was the last thing the front office and coaching staff wanted to see happen.

Brian Griese did not come into Soldier Field with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and get a victory. He came in and single-handedly directed an improbable comeback by setting a record against the Bears with 67 pass attempts. The quarterback that wasn't good enough to compete for the starting job here has to be a frontrunner for the NFC offensive player player of the week award at the expense of the defense he used to go against in practice all the time.

There were three years remaining on Griese's deal but a personality clash with the coaches, above all else, led the club to push the eject button. It's not like the Bears didn't know he was capable of this. They saw it first-hand last season when he rallied the offense 97 yards for a game-winning touchdown at Philadelphia.

"You know what, I don't know,'' Griese said when asked if he expected to be back with the Bears. "I was traded. Obviously, they didn't need me.''

And that's exactly what the Bears are going to keep telling themselves, that they didn't need Griese. The Bucs sure are glad to have him. They're calling him "Top Gun" in Tampa today.

From the For What It's Worth Department ... J.T. O'Sullivan tossed two touchdown passes Sunday in San Francisco's win over Detroit to raise the 49ers to 2-1.

Count the Bears thankful Kyle Orton was sharp with the exception of one misguided pass straight to defense end Gaines Adams that was returned 45 yards for a touchdown. Orton made some tough throws and show grit and determination running out of the pocket and collecting 21 yards rushing. We might have been writing about his game-winning drive had Rashied Davis not had a perfect pass over the middle hit off his hands, his second drop on third down in two weeks.

If these former NFC Central foes were still in the same division, there would be some bad blood brewing for a rematch later in the season.

The Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not leave cheap shots on the field Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field as some strong allegations regarding dirty play were made afterward.

It was the skirmish after Brian Griese's two-yard pass to Jerramy Stevens on third-and-nine from the Bucs' eight-yard line that heightened emotions in what had been a chippy affair. Tampa was going to have to punt from its own 10-yard line early in overtime, setting the Bears up with premium field position, before one of the all-time boneheaded Bears' penalties moved the chains for the Bucs.

Cornerback Charles Tillman was singled out in the fracas for squaring off with Tampa wide receiver Michael Clayton and called for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. For his part, Tillman said emotions got the best of him.

"I was just trying to pull them off and one thing led to another,'' he said. "It got a little physical. [I've] just got to be smarter than that. No excuses.''

But it all started in the trenches where Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood was rolling around with defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. Trueblood leveled some serious accusations after he was asked by the Sun-Times if he was at the root of the skirmish.

Ten random thoughts on today's 20-17 victory by the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium:

1. Have you ever seen a home team have more trouble with false starts? The Panthers picked up five in the first half and it looked like several of them were the product of Jake Delhomme trying to sort out what the Bears were doing defensively at the line of scrimmage. Delhomme was barking out some calls and the play clock was running low and his guys couldn't maintain their stances. Carolina was making about every mistake you could think of and the Bears simply didn't capitalize enough.

2. The most bothersome thing about Greg Olsen's two lost fumbles is neither looked to be the product of a jarring hit. Thomas Davis got the first one out and Chris Harris accurately described the second one. He compared it to playing lazy defense in basketball and going for the pickpocket when you're behind your man. When there are huge hits, fumbles happen for even the most sure-handed carriers.

Olsen's first fumble took probably at least three points off the scoreboard. He wasn't going anywhere on the second-and-seven play from the Carolina-25-yard line, so the Bears would have been facing third and a decent distance, but that's in Robbie Gould's wheelhouse right there. It could have been 10-0 midway through the first quarter. As far as the second fumble, that happened deep in the Bears end, that gave a team desperately seeking momentum just that.

He wasn't the only one who had a bad game. Just off the top, there was at least one drop for Rashied Davis and one penalty. Davis, who started, caught three passes for 11 yards. Brandon McGowan had two penalties, one of the uncalled for 15-yard variety following the blocked punt touchdown, before he was injured.

A little later than we like, we get to some final thoughts on the game Sunday night in Indianapolis. Like the team, we've got to put this one behind us and move on to the next one at Carolina, and we'll do that starting Wednesday morning. Here are some notes and quotes coming out of the game:

***
Maybe defensive tackle Tommie Harris didn't get as much rest as you thought during the game. Harris was on the field for 44 of the Colts' 66 offensive plays, the most of any interior lineman. Of course, that's not at the 74 percent clip Harris wants to be at for the end of the season. His de-escalating roster bonus is contingent on making the Pro Bowl and being on the field for 74 percent of the snaps for the season. He would have needed an additional five snaps in the game to be at that pace.

Israel Idonije had 35 snaps at defensive tackle followed by 33 for Dusty Dvoracek, who started. Rookie Marcus Harrison had 18 snaps and while the sack of Peyton Manning got great publicity, don't forget about another play he made. Harrison drove center Jamey RIchard clear into the backfield on the fourth-and-one play from the 50-yard line at the start of the fourth quarter with the Bears leading 22-13. That blew up the play right there and allowed Lance Briggs and Adewale Ogunleye to easily stuff running back Dominic Rhodes for a two-yard loss.

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