Too little, too late?

Some people think Dick Jauron's saved his job. <P> The Bears finished the home part of their schedule with an impressive 6-2 record at renovated Soldier Field, but couldn't figure out how to win on the road. A 1-6 mark away from home isn't flashy, and the Bears (7-8) finish up at AFC West champion Kansas City (12-3), which has a team-record 12-game home winning streak.

Jauron hasn't won over everybody's heart, though. He's 35-45 in five seasons in Chicago and has only one winning season during that time (13-3 in 2001).

Jauron, who continues to dodge the questions about his future, back-pedaled again Monday at Halas Hall during his weekly press conference. Jauron was asked if he'd pull a Jim Fassel and ask general manager Jerry Angelo for a vote of confidence before the season ends. Fassel did that last week and was told by the Giants he would be let go after the season.

"Absolutely not," Jauron said. "The speculation is coming from here (the media). I'm only concerned with Kansas City, and getting ready for that. ... There's not a whole lot I can do about how (the players) are handling it. I could ask you to stop speculating, that would be nice. But I know that's not going to occur. All we can do is get ready for Kansas City."

Players have defended Jauron all season, and still did after Sunday's 27-24 victory over Washington. It's still the hottest topic around the team, especially since the Bears have been out of the playoff picture for weeks and Jauron has just one year remaining on a contract extension he signed after the 2001 season.

"The good news about this team is their attitude has always been fantastic," Jauron said. "They're a great group of people to work with, they prepare well and they play hard. We've just got to find ways to win -- ways to win games.

"I'm not a big believer in the last game carrying over. I think who you are carries over into the next year."

While Jauron's team has responded from a 1-5 start, the Bears still missed the playoffs for the fourth time in Jauron's five seasons. The NFC North was arguably the league's worst division and Chicago still couldn't make the race interesting, with Minnesota and Green Bay battling for the division title and a potential wild card spot heading into the final week of the regular season.

The Bears have turned the corner with Rex Grossman at quarterback and a slew of rookies making huge impacts. Charles "Peanut" Tillman has turned into the team's best defensive back and Lance Briggs has emerged as a playmaker and starter at linebacker.

Grossman passed for 249 yards and two touchdowns against the Redskins and actually had the offense moving on a consistent basis. Grossman went downfield with passes -- instead of the usual dinks and dunks -- and the running game has come around despite massive injuries on the offensive line. The Bears even lost tackle Qasim Mitchell -- who wasn't on the team to start the season -- to a broken leg Sunday.

Anthony Thomas, who missed three games this season, had a season-high 141 yards against the 'Skins and is 37 yards away from 1,000 for the second time in his career.

Things are definitely looking up for the Bears. It still might not be enough to save Jauron's job.

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