Injuries Threaten Bears' Ground Game

CLEVELAND - Thomas Jones continued to show Sunday that the Bears have one dependable feature in their offense even if there are major flaws in the rest.

Jones rushed for 137 yards on 24 carries, his third straight 100-yard game this year and fifth in six games, but the Bears fell 20-10.

"I was pleased with how we rushed the football," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Thomas Jones played well, but it was not enough."

How much longer they can continue to be effective on the ground is cause for concern because Jones emerged with one of several key injuries that could affect the offense in coming weeks. Jones suffered a bruised right knee, which caused him to be removed from the game in the fourth quarter.

He tried to test the injury on the sidelines but did not return to the game.

"I was running just to see how it felt and it just didn't feel right, and it was real week and I didn't want to go in and make it worse," said Jones, who stayed out of the game. "That pretty much was the trainer's decision and mine."

Jones had runs of 23 and 25 yards on the Bears' 93-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter. He came into the game with 276 rushing yards on 62 carries, which was 13th best in the league.

"The line was doing a really good job of getting on their blocks and maintaining them and I was tyring to make the right reads," Jones said. "They did a great job, the whole offensive line played well."

Those two breakaway runs came behind left guard, but starter Ruben Brown was long gone by then. Brown has an injured right pectoral muscle that he suffered in the first quarter Sunday. He was replaced by free agent acquisition Roberto Garza.

"Any time you lose a player like Ruben Brown, you lose a lot," Bears center Olin Kreutz said. "But Garza came in and played well. He's veteran. We expect it out of him. He's a good player.

"But I wouldn't say that losing Ruben doesn't hurt us. It does."

The other big offensive injury was a left ankle sprain suffered late in the game by left tackle John Tait. He limped to the locker room. John St. Clair replaced him at left tackle.

Smith said the severity of both Brown's and Tait's injuries is unknown.

"We can't really pinpoint exactly what it is, tear, strain," said Brown, who had his 2004 season ended by neck surgery and had a knee injury, as well. "So it's not fair to say what it is."


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