Nothing For Granted

LAKE FOREST -- Now the shoe is on the other foot. And boy, do the Bears know it. It was just last season -- in the final regular-season game -- that Chicago beat Detroit 23-20 at the Silverdome to end the Lions' playoff hopes.

   In some ways, it's the same situation again. The Bears (11-3) are already in, that's the good news. However, the Lions (1-13) can put a damper on some things like a first-round bye or the chance for Chicago to win the NFC Central Division with an upset win Sunday.

   The Bears can clinch the division and a first-round bye with a win over the Lions and a loss by the Packers at home against the Vikings.

   But it won't be easy.

   "They didn't get what they wanted (last time). They got a good piece of us," Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache said, referring to the 13-10 Bears win at Soldier Field Dec. 2. "We were able to get away at the last little bit. They have to feel even better about their chances right now because having to come to our place, they missed three field goals, one right at the end and we barely get away.

   "We've got to go to their place now. You're a lot more secure, a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident playing at home. I think there'll be a lot of hostility towards us. I would assume there will be."

   The Bears survived a Lions scare, to say the least, in the previous meeting. Detroit was still searching for its first win and almost got it. Jason Hanson missed three field goals, including a 40-yarder in the closing seconds, to preserve the Chicago win.

   The Lions outgained the Bears in the game, and allowed just 124 yards passing by Jim Miller.

   "We do know Detroit is banged up in the secondary, but I just think for us, all year we've been solid on our defense and our specials teams, we just want a good balanced attack on offense.

   "We're going to have to be just like last week on the away game, no penalties. We had no penalties, we had no turnovers and that's the key to winning football games."

   The Bears could try to open things up this week since Lions starting cornerback Terry Fair is out with a foot injury, and the rest of the secondary is full of question marks.

   "You look at their DB situation, they just signed Ray McElroy who was playing here with us, they've got Marty Carter there now, so quite frankly, we don't even know how they're going to line up until after the first play," Miller said. "How they're going to line up in nickel, who's going to be where.

   "So it's going to be kind of interesting how this game unfolds. We'll make a lot of adjustments on the fly."

   One thing the Bears won't have to worry about is Detroit quarterback Charlie Batch, who is out for the season with a separated shoulder suffered against the Bears in the previous meeting. Rookie backup Mike McMahon (foot) is questionable, and Ty Detmer is his backup.

   If the Bears can beat both Detroit and Jacksonville in their final two regular-season games, they'll go 13-3 and be guaranteed of a first-round bye in the playoffs.

   "It's all about getting that week off," linebacker Warrick Holdman said. "You get to sit home and watch other guys play and get hurt while you're healing up."


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