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Bears finally show signs of life

By Andrew Seligman

Associated Press

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Brian Griese surveyed the scene and smiled as if he had just spotted a receiver alone in the end zone.

"Signs of life," he said.

Yes, there are signs of life in the Chicago Bears’ universe.

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The defending NFC champions (2-3) rebounded just as it seemed they were taking their final breath, rallying for a 27-20 victory at Green Bay last week that might have saved their season. Beating the Minnesota Vikings (1-3) at Soldier Field on Sunday would be another step toward recovery.

True, their running game remains stagnant. Yes, the Bears are still nursing a bunch of injuries, particularly on defense. But they showed shades of their old selves last week.

The Bears forced five turnovers while committing one. Lance Briggs contributed 19 tackles after missing the previous game with a hamstring injury. And the Pro Bowl linebacker, who vowed during the offseason never to play again for Chicago, was in such a good mood this week that he said he wouldn’t mind sticking with the Bears after this season.

Griese was steady in his second start after throwing three interceptions against Detroit. And tight ends Desmond Clark (62 yards) and Greg Olsen (57 yards) shredded the Packers.

The Bears will try to keep it going against a team that keeps losing close games — three straight by a total of 13 points.

The Vikings opened the season by routing Atlanta, but since then?

They fell by three at Detroit (in overtime) and Kansas City, and the frustration continued with a 23-16 loss to Green Bay two weeks ago.

"We’re close," safety Darren Sharper said. "You look at our games, a play here or a play there is determining whether or not we lose. If we can start making those plays and not hurting ourselves, whether it’s penalties or turnovers, we’ll win the majority of our games."

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But the passing game has a long way to go. Kelly Holcomb was sacked five times in each of the past two games, with the more mobile Tarvaris Jackson sidelined by a pulled groin muscle.

The Vikings hope the second-year pro is ready. Then again, Jackson threw four interceptions in his last start against Detroit.

"It’s been kind of hard being on the sideline, watching," Jackson said. "You’re still trying to be the best you can be and just trying to learn at the same time, but I love playing football and being out on the field, so it’s been hard."

Through 20 games under coach Brad Childress, the Vikings have yet to throw for more than 270 yards in one contest. Jackson remains an unknown and he does not have a standout receiver among his targets, although Rice is emerging.

The Vikings do have a standout running back, Adrian Peterson. And the NFL’s best run defense.

The league’s offensive rookie of the month for September, Peterson ran for 383 yards and reached the 100-yard mark three times.

Meanwhile, the defense is giving opponents no room to run, holding them to a league-low 62 yards per game and 2.5 per carry. No team has run for 100 yards or a touchdown against the Vikings, which doesn’t bode well for Chicago’s Cedric Benson.

He has had trouble holding onto the ball at times and is averaging 3.0 yards.

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"We’re not pleased with our yards per carry," said Smith, whose team is averaging 3.1 per attempt.

They liked what they saw from Griese and the tight ends last week, and on Sunday, the Bears will meet a team allowing 266.8 yards passing, third most in the NFL.

"It’s not like our offense is fixed," said Griese, who had 214 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. "We understand that we need to continue to work hard."

Last year, the Bears swept the Vikings, but it wasn’t easy. There was no shortage of drama.

Sharper accused Rex Grossman of trash talking in a big way after he threw a 24-yard touchdown to Rashied Davis right after the 2-minute warning that lifted the Bears to a 19-16 win at the Metrodome in September.

Grossman simply played like trash the next time, even though the Bears won 23-13 on a frigid December afternoon to clinch the NFC North. He was 6-of-19 for 34 yards with three interceptions, no touchdowns and a 1.3 passer rating.

But the Bears’ problems extended beyond Grossman.

Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris suffered a season-ending hamstring injury that required surgery. And he’s been bothered lately by a knee injury that has, in a way, helped him "as crazy as it sounds."

"It slowed me down, helped me use my hands better," said Harris, who is tied for the team lead with four sacks.

Now, the Vikings will try to slow down the Bears’ hoped-for resurgence.

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