Game Snapshot: Bears @ Cardinals

The Bears defense is the best in the league by a longshot, and the offense has improved dramatically. Do the Cardinals have a chance? The complete snapshot from

KICKOFF: Monday, 8:30 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/16/06
TV: ESPN, Mike Tirico, Joe Theismann, Tony Kornheiser, Suzy Kolber, Michele Tafoya
SERIES: 89th meeting. Bears lead series, 56-26-6 but they've played just four times ion the past 15 years. The Series dates to 1920, when the Chicago Cardinals defeated the Decatur Staleys 7-6. The following season, the Staleys became the Chicago Staleys and the next year the Chicago Bears. The Cardinals played in Chicago, on the South Side, from 1920-1959.
2006 RANKINGS: Bears: offense 4th (15th rush, 4th pass); defense 3rd (6th rush, 5th pass). Cardinals: offense 22nd (31st rush, 10th pass); defense 27th (22nd rush, 29th pass)

PREDICTION: Bears 27-16

KEYS TO THE GAME: How balanced is the Bears' offense? Chicago has a 52-48 run to pass ratio, which is not only preventing defenses from overplaying the run like they did last season, but QB Rex Grossman is posting MVP-worthy numbers. Arizona hasn't stopped either method consistently this season and could have serious trouble getting off the field on defense. The Cardinals will need to win the turnover margin to keep the game competitive deep into the second half. That means getting an efficient game from rookie QB Matt Leinart in just his second career start. He was solid in his debut last weekend, but now he must face the league's most imposing front seven on national television and without injured WR Larry Fitzgerald. RB Edgerrin James has been vying for more carries on a weekly basis, but to keep him involved in the game plan Arizona has to stay within striking distance and get decent line play.

FAST FACTS: Bears: Seek first 6-0 start since 1996. ... RB Thomas Jones was the seventh overall pick by Arizona in the 2000 draft and rushed for 1,264 yards in three seasons with the team. Cardinals: Are 12-25 under coach Dennis Green. ... Are 0-3 on Monday nights since moving to Arizona in 1988.

--TE Desmond Clark (foot) didn't practice Thursday, but with the extra day of rest before Monday night's game, he's expected to start against the Cardinals.
--DE Adewale Ogunleye is questionable with a hamstring injury and hasn't practiced in the past two weeks. The best guess is that the Bears won't risk playing him this week because their game against the Cardinals is followed by a bye.
--FS Danieal Manning, who didn't crack the starting lineup until Week 3, is fifth on the team with 21 tackles.
--RB Thomas Jones has just one run of more than 17 yards this season on 106 carries, but he has 13 carries of 10 yards or more, including a long of 29.
--WR Rashied Davis, the Bears' No. 3 wideout, has three receptions of more than 20 yards and two touchdowns among his eight catches.

--RB Edgerrin James wants the ball more, but he is averaging more than 22 carries a game. What he needs to do is produce more yards with that amount of carries. James has yet to gain 100 yards in five games as a Cardinal.
--QB Matt Leinart will be the starter the rest of the season, barring injury. Coach Dennis Green doesn't plan to go back to Kurt Warner.
--QB Kurt Warner is contemplating retirement. Warner has benched for the third time since 2003 by a third different team. He thinks he still can be a starter in the NFL, but it's unlikely any team is going to hand him a secure staring position.
--DE Bertrand Berry does not have a sack in five games this season. He has applied some pressure to the quarterback but hasn't made the big plays expected of him.

On most football teams, even good ones, the loss of two starting defensive linemen can be critical.
Last Sunday the Bears played without left end Adewale Ogunleye and nose tackle Ian Scott, yet they still held the Bills to 145 total yards, less than half the NFL average of 319.
Apparently they didn't need their best pass rusher from last season (Ogunleye had 10 sacks) or one of their stoutest run defenders. Israel Idonije started in place of Ogunleye, and rookie Mark Anderson got more playing time, responding with two sacks to take over the team lead with 5 1/2. The fifth-round pick led all Bears linemen Sunday with five tackles. Tank Johnson started for Scott and had a pair of quarterback hurries, one of which landed him the No. 3 spot on ESPN's "Jacked Up" when he buried the Bills' J.P. Losman.
"We have a lot of depth on our defensive line, and I think this past week proved that," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "No. 8 or 9 on our defensive line are pretty good football players."
Alfonso Boone, a tackle who can also play end, saw increased playing time and responded with a season-best three tackles, and Antonio Garay was active for the first time, backing up the interior positions. Right end Alex Brown had a rare interception-sack combo, his third sack of the season but just the second pick of his five-year career.
With tackle Tommie Harris frequently drawing double-team attention, the contribution of his linemates was vital, as it will be for the remainder of the season.
"That's how it works, it's the trickle effect," Harris said. "If I'm getting double-teamed, somebody else is coming free. We went out there without Adewale and Ian Scott, and other guys stepped up. That's what it's all about. If more attention is on one guy, someone else should be coming free, and great things happen out there on the field."
Of the Bears' 15 sacks through five games, 14 have come from linemen, exactly half of last year's defensive line total of 28 sacks for the entire season.
Scott was a late scratch after practicing all week because Smith didn't think his tweaked hamstring was 100 percent. By now, very few starters in the NFL feel as if they're 100 percent, but the Bears have the luxury -- at least on the defensive line -- of allowing injured players to heal completely.
"I think that was great," defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "It just spoke to the depth and to guys who come out and play hard. Tank Johnson did a tremendous job, as did Alfonso Boone, and Antonio Garay got to play. I'm real happy for those guys."
Smith knows that he can mix and match different defensive line formations, but he doesn't completely agree that it doesn't matter who starts there.
"It matters to them who starts," the coach said, "but all the guys know that they'll play, and that's what's important."
The Bears go nine deep on the line only because coaches are confident there won't be a huge drop-off in productivity from one player to the next. That depth allows coaches to keep fresh players in the game at all times. That's especially important for a team like the Bears that has been playing with big leads most of the season and defending opponents who throw the ball frequently.
The players aren't exactly interchangeable parts, but they're all contributing to the cause.
"They were all able to adapt and adjust in terms of who was out there, who ran the stunts together in terms of the end and tackle combinations," Rivera said. "They all did a real nice job of communicating and working with each other."

There could be as many as five changes in the Cardinals' starting lineup Monday night when they play the Bears.
Two of the changes are based on performance. Nick Leckey is expected to start at center for Alex Stepanovich, who has not played well in the first five weeks.
Karlos Dansby appears to be rounding into shape, so it's likely he'll assume his usual starting role at strong outside linebacker. Dansby missed all of the preseason work with a toe injury and lost his starting job to Calvin Pace.
Pace played fairly well, but he's not the impact player that Dansby is. Dansby had nine tackles and two sacks last week against the Chiefs.
Rookie Gabe Watson will start at nose tackle in place of Kendrick Clancy, who has a sprained ankle. Chris Liwienski is likely to start at right guard in place of Milford Brown, who is out with an ankle injury. Rookie Deuce Lutui, a second-round pick, also is expected to see some action there, too.
Starting receiver Larry Fitzgerald has a pulled right hamstring and is expected to miss at least two games. Bryant Johnson will start in his place, with Troy Walters moving into the No. 3 spot.


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