NFL Team Report - Chicago Bears - INSIDE SLANT
Reinforcements won't be coming to the aid of the Chicago Bears on either side of the football this week, so they'll need to find a way to beat the Dallas Cowboys at Soldier Field with players who were part of two consecutive losses to teams already out of the playoff chase.
It's probably the injury on the defensive side that hurts worse at this point with the Bears owning a 6-6 record and still holding out hopes of surpassing 7-5 Detroit -- although a case can also be made the other way.
"I would say there's no chance that Lance will play this week," coach Marc Trestman said. "He's in the conditioning process. He ran quite a bit today. He'll see the doctors early in the week next week and they'll see where he's at.
"He's working his way back, and that's a good thing."
Unlike Briggs, Cutler was able to practice Thursday but merely ran scout team plays against the first-team defense. He'll be examined again next week and Trestman is not backing off earlier statements that he was certain Cutler would play again this season.
"Jay is very clear on where he is medically," Trestman said. "He's continuing to progress. I think we've been very, very clear that he's got to be released by the doctors before he can play, and he's come to terms with that. He's a strong-willed and strong-minded guy.
"He can't control this decision on Monday other than to continue to work at his rehab."
The Bears have scored about six points more per game with Cutler on the field, although they also have seven more interceptions when he plays as opposed to McCown, whose passer rating is about 25 points higher at 103.6.
"Jay has a stronger arm and can do different things with just his arm strength, rely on his arm strength, and Josh relies on timing and being where we need to be," tight end Martellus Benentt said. "So Jay could make some throws that Josh may not be able to make in some different situations, but they both do a great job for us, and it shows. Every single week we've still been putting up numbers no matter who's there."
So have opposing offenses against the Bears defense. Briggs' absence and injuries to Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams, Henry Melton and Nate Collins have been difficult for the Bears to overcome. Briggs often had a two-gap responsibility against the run from his weakside spot and was a key run stuffer. In his absence, rookie Khaseem Greene has struggled. With Briggs gone, the Bears also have been without their defensive signal caller.
Although the run defense has allowed over 200 yards per game the past six weeks and teams average 5.0 yards per carry, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker remains positive.
"We're to the point now where we're there to make the play," he said. "We just have to finish. We're not talking about missed (run) fits as much now as we were talking about maybe a couple of weeks ago.
"Now, we have to be more physical at the point of attack. We have to get off blocks. We have to make tackles. We're there to make plays and we're going to make those."
Just when one hole started to get plugged, another appeared. The pass defense became a concern because Vikings backup quarterback Matt Cassel threw for 243 yards in a half. And now they face Tony Romo playing at a high level.
"We've got to do a better job tackling and not giving up big plays, make them go the long, hard way," Tucker said. "And when we get a chance to get off the field on third down, we've got to do it."
SERIES HISTORY: 22nd regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead series 11-10. The teams also met twice in the playoffs with Dallas winning both. Dallas won the last game in the series played in Chicago in 2007 and the Bears have won the last two overall