Bears Thinking Big

LAKE FOREST -- It's way too early to start coming up with another Super Bowl Shuffle, but make no mistake, the Bears are thinking big picture these days.

Playoffs aren't enough for these hungry dudes.

"We want to be greedy, we want it all, we're not satisfied with what we have," Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "We don't want to just sample a little bit of the smorgasbord, we want to eat the whole thing.

"I told them there's nothing wrong with being greedy when it comes to this; we've worked hard for this. And so we'll find out what we're made out of."

First thing's first, and that's Sunday's showdown at the Washington Redskins. The Skins are 6-7 after becoming the first team in NFL history to lose its first five games, then win its next five.

Washington is still fighting to stay alive in the playoff hunt.

"(The Bears players) need to understand the big picture, but once they understand it, they need to put it aside and focus totally on this game, because that's the only way we can win," Bears coach Dick Jauron said. "We need to focus totally on the next opponent, and that's Washington and they are good.

"It's an important game for both teams. They've done a nice job of playing themselves into a position where they're trying to get into the tournament."

The Bears, who have a one-game lead on Green Bay in the NFC Central, have an easier road than the Packers. After Washington, the Bears finish up with Detroit and Jacksonville while the Packers have Cleveland, Minnesota and the New York Giants. Chicago trails the Rams by one game for the best record in the NFC.

"I think we'd be lying if we said it wasn't a relief to have clinched a spot in the playoffs," Jauron said. "That's what we go to camp for, that's what we're in business for. We're trying to get into the playoffs and have a shot at the championship. That's what it's all about.

"We talked a little bit (Wednesday) morning and told them I want to step back very briefly and congratulate you on what you've accomplished, but you've got to understand that it's not over. There's a lot left out there on the table and it's very important to us."

The last time the Bears and Redskins met was in 1999, when Washington ripped the Bears 48-22. The Skins have won the last six games in the series.

Stephen Davis, the NFC's leading rusher with 1,116 yards, had 143 yards on just 12 carries, including a 76-yard TD run, the last time the teams played.

The Bears have a quality guy to run the ball as well in rookie Anthony Thomas. Thomas, who rushed for 173 yards in 31 carries in a 27-3 win over Tampa Bay last week, was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his effort. Thomas was the NFL's Rookie of the Month in October.

Thomas joins Walter Payton and Gale Sayers as the only running backs in team history to rush for more than 170 yards twice in one season.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised by it," Jauron said of Thomas' success. "We took him high in the draft. We thought he was really an excellent back, and he's proven that's what it is.

"Of course he's got a ways to go. He's still learning how to play, but he's done a terrific job for us."


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