Notebook: Ground Game Opening Up

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Thomas Jones is only 27 yards short of the 1,300-yard mark after a 105-yard effort in Sunday's 24-17 win over the Green Bay Packers, and thinks the best is yet to come because of Rex Grossman's arm.

"It helped a lot just to be able to finally throw deep balls and a couple corner routes, a couple comebacks, just to back the safeties and corners up," Jones said. "That gives me a lot more room just to do what I need to do once I get past the line of scrimmage."

Jones' big run in the first half was a 25-yarder. He finished one drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.

Getting Grossman's passing to open up the running lanes is something he's dreamed about all year.

"I think any running back in the NFL can appreciate that," he said. "If you look at the main guys who have the most yards, (Shaun) Alexander obviously he has a great passing game complementing him, Tiki Barber has a great passing game, Larry Johnson has great passing game, Edgerrin James, they're seeing six people (defenders) in the box (close to the line) every week. That's like a running back's dream."

Jones has been running against eight- and nine-man fronts.

"That hasn't been my reality this year but it's something I have had to deal with," he said. "But I think the offensive line and running backs and offensive coaches have done a great job of dealing with that and somehow producing and getting it done."

History Repeating Itself
Bears weak side linebacker Lance Briggs has developed into the Green Bay offense's worst nightmare.

The 10-yard interception and return he made in Sunday's game, which was a back-breaker, was his third career TD and all of them have come on interceptions against the Packers. He had a 38-yarder in the 2004 season finale at Soldier Field and a 45-yarder on Dec. 7, 2003 in Green Bay.

"It was just like the one (last year)," he said. "Same thing. It's beautiful. I can't say enough about it. It was a simple play and I got out there and made it."

The pass was going to fullback William Henderson in the flat and Briggs said he kept thinking about Brett Favre, 'you're not going to throw it, you're not going to throw it, you are going to throw it.' And I grabbed it and scored."

Time for R&R
The Bears took on a few more injuries, so they're thankful for the bye they earned as the second seed in the NFC.

"We've got some guys who need some rest," defensive end Alex Brown said. "We had our bye week early in the year (Week 4). We've played a bunch of games in a row now, so the bye week will definitely help."

Center Olin Kreutz suffered an ankle injury in the second half when he was rolled up from behind in the open field, but returned to the game. Safety Mike Green suffered a shoulder injury.

Closing Time
The Bears hadn't sacked Favre all game until they got him on successive plays during Green Bay's final drive of the game to prevent a late tying score.

"If the game comes down to us, that's the way we want it," Brown said of the defense.

Brown and Tank Johnson had the sacks.

The interceptions by Briggs, Charles Tillman and two by Chris Harris of Favre made it six picks for the year off Favre by the Bears. It could have been the last time Favre faces the bears, but they didn't think he looked too old to be playing the game at 36.

"He doesn't look any different to me. He was as strong as ever," linebacker Brian Urlacher said.

The 17 points allowed by the Bears ruined their chances of breaking the NFL scoring record of 165 points set by the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. Seven came on a punt return, but the scoring record doesn't differentiate between defensive points allowed and offensive or special teams points allowed.

"Who cares. We won the division," Urlacher said.

The Bears were without four starters in Sunday's game.

Although safety Mike Brown had said there was a "high probability" he would play, he was among the game-day inactives with the calf strain, which has now cost him three straight starts. Brandon McGowan replaced him.

Linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer (thumb), guard Terrence Metcalf (shoulder) and defensive tackle Ian Scott were the other starters out due to injuries. Tank Johnson started for Scott, Leon Joe for Hillenmeyer and Roberto Garza for Metcalf.

Other inactives were injured running back Cedric Benson (knee), center Lennie Friedman and tackle Qasim Mitchell. Jeff Blake was the emergency quarterback.

Nickel back and kick returner Jerry Azumah was active for the game, but did not play his normal roles the entire time. Instead, Mike Green served as nickel back and Rashied Davis returned kickoffs sometimes. Azumah had one kickoff return for 21 yards and Davis two for a 19.5-yard average.

Long March
The Packers' first TD came on an 84-yard drive, the longest drive against the Bears' defense since the Saints' 95-yard drive Nov. 6.

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