Bears Preparing For Changes Against Vikings

The Chicago Bears likely will be changing out some of their starters Sunday against the Vikings after some of their better starters were deemed to be playing below par.

Change is in the air at Halas Hall, and the starting lineup against the Vikings could look a lot different than the one that handed the Browns a 20-10 gift-wrapped victory Sunday.

Rookie Chris Harris' job is in jeopardy after he was beaten on a 33-yard touchdown catch by Antonio Bryant that gave the Browns a 13-10 lead with 3:02 left in the game.

"There's always a chance of changing personnel," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We have a starting rotation, and if you're at the top of the list, you need to play at a certain level. We'll evaluate it like we do always."

In that case, cornerback Charles Tillman could also be in trouble. Supposedly the Bears' best cover corner, Tillman was torched by Bryant for a 28-yard TD grab 38 seconds after Harris was toasted. Tillman, who had his first interception of the season against the Browns, has been victimized for four touchdown passes in the past three games. He was in man-to-man coverage with Bryant, who beat him to the outside to make the catch.

"Most of the time we play man coverage," Smith said. "We ask the guys to play outside man. We give them help inside. That's the majority of how we play our defense. That's a big part of what we ask the guys to do, and we haven't been in position to do that, letting receivers get outside."

Harris was one of two deep safeties on the Browns' first TD, but he didn't get deep enough to prevent Bryant from getting behind him.

"Cover-2 is our signature defense," Smith said. "It's been our signature defense for a long time. We would like to get in a situation where a team has to throw the ball, where we could play our Cover-2. We were in that situation (Sunday), and it involved getting a reroute on receivers and two deep safeties staying back in coverage, reading the quarterback with a good rush."

The Bears have several options if they decide to shuffle personnel in the secondary. Veteran Mike Green could get back the job he lost to Harris after the season opener, and Todd Johnson has been playing in the Bears' occasional three-safety alignment. At cornerback, Jerry Azumah could be promoted. A 37-game starter over the previous three years, Azumah has been the Bears' nickel cornerback so far this season, playing only in passing situations. He could move to starting cornerback in the base defense and then shift to the slot as the nickel corner in long-yardage situations.

"Everyone is accountable," Smith said. "If you're on the field, we expect you to play at a certain level. You don't overreact to situations (as a coach). But if you continue to make the same mistakes, we will make a change and move on. That's' just how it goes."


  • QB Kyle Orton managed just 90 yards on 30 dropbacks Sunday, but he did complete 16 of 26 passes, throw a TD pass and avoided an interception a game after throwing five.

  • QB Jeff Blake's status hasn't changed and isn't expected to. Barring a disastrous outing by Kyle Orton, Blake will play only if the rookie is injured.

  • RB Thomas Jones isn't expected to play this week because of a mildly sprained right knee, but it wouldn't be a surprise if the Bears list him as questionable this week.

  • RB Cedric Benson will start Sunday if starter Thomas Jones doesn't play because of a sprained right knee. Benson (65 yards on 24 carries, 2.7-yard average) certainly hasn't earned a start on merit.

  • WR Muhsin Muhammad (22 catches, 250 yards) is averaging 11.4 yards per catch, which would be a career low, 2 yards below his 10-year average.

  • WR Mark Bradley caught four passes for 33 yards in his first NFL start but lost a fumble on his first catch of the day that resulted in a Browns field goal.

  • WR Justin Gage, a starter the first three weeks, had no receptions in Game Four and still has just two catches for 31 yards this season.

  • TE Desmond Clark had two catches for 9 yards, giving him seven receptions for 54 yards on the year. Clark missed some practice time over the bye with a strained neck but started against the Browns.

  • PK Doug Brien's strained back muscle is not progressing as quickly as the Bears had hoped, and he might be unavailable for the second straight week.

  • PK Robbie Gould could be in the lineup again this week in place of Doug Brien (back). Gould hit a 44-yard FG in his NFL debut last week but missed a 48-yarder.

  • MLB Brian Urlacher leads all NFL linebackers with four sacks after getting one last week.

  • CB Charles Tillman got his first interception of the season but was burned for a TD pass for the fourth time in the past three games.

  • FS Chris Harris was beaten deep for a 33-yard TD pass that proved to be the wining score, and he could be replaced this week as the starter.

  • FS Mike Green is the logical choice to replace rookie Chris Harris if Harris is benched after giving up what proved to be the winning score last week on a 33-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass.

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