Wade Still the One

The Bears were lucky to win a game that saw punt returner Bobby Wade fumble three times. Getting away with that against the 49ers is one thing, but a repeat effort against the Panthers would be a different story. However, Wade's job appears safe for now.

No player was happier about last Sunday's final score than Wade.

"A win eliminates anything that happens," said Wade, who is still the second leading punt returner in the NFL with a 10.9-yard average. "I'm still going to be the same player, have enough confidence in myself to maintain and be an impact player back there."

After the third fumble, Wade was benched in favor of Rashied Davis. But Bears coach Lovie Smith isn't ready to give Wade's job away yet.

"At the time we felt we had to make a change," Smith said. "We have options, and guys know that they have to perform or we'll look elsewhere. But I can't say we're to that point right now."

Considering two of the three turnovers were caused on the actual return and not the catch, Wade took most of the blame on a day when 47 mph winds made the job of punt returner one of the toughest on the field.

"The first two fumbles, that is Bobby Wade; Bobby Wade needs to hold on to the ball," he said. "But that fair catch (at the Bears 10-yard line), that lets you know how tough it is to catch the ball. Still, someway, somehow, I have got to be able to come up with that ball. I thought it was a good decision. If I could have it back, I wouldn't have given that ball a chance (to drop)."

Early Return
While the story might have changed, the timeline has not. The Bears have said all along that Fred Miller would miss two weeks because of a cracked jaw.

On Monday Miller said that he would return to practice next week, but several reports state he has been cleared to play this week against the Panthers.

Considering John St. Clair would have had to block Carolina DE Julius Peppers, the scrutiny for last week's fight with center Olin Kreutz would have likely intensified if the Bears lost to the Panthers without Miller on the field.

Miller had his 110 consecutive game streak snapped when he sat out against the 49ers.

On Second Thought
Victories by the Lions (4-5), Vikings (4-5) and Packers (2-7) allowed all three of the Bears' NFC North foes to keep pace with them. But the Vikings' victory over the Giants, and the Packers' victory over the Falcons, dropped both the Giants and Atlanta to 6-3 and into a three-way tie with the Bears for the third-best record in the conference behind the Panthers and Seahawks, who are both 7-2.

It's also the first time in the history of the division that all four teams won on the same Sunday. The NFC North has a combined record of 16-20, while the AFC East and NFC West are 14-22 and 15-21 respectively.

"I've been hearing an awful lot about the NFC North and how bad it is," Smith said. "It's funny how it worked out (Sunday). All four teams in the NFC North won. It's a good division and in time the records will show that."

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