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(WSCR) – After two consecutive loses at home, the Bears spent the past two weeks answering questions about how they would spend their bye week improving on their 4-3 start. Soon the time for answering questions will be over. The Bears should be rested and ready to take a Buffalo Bills team that has yet to win a game this season.
The Chicago Bears are over .500, but haven’t been playing as well as their record indicates.
The Buffalo Bills are at the other end of the spectrum, remaining the NFL’s lone winless team despite playing competitive football.
The Bears again look to get their struggling offense on track and avoid losing a third straight game Sunday when they face the Bills in Toronto.
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Chicago (4-3) was one of the biggest surprises in the league when it opened the season 3-0, but three losses in four games sent the team stumbling into last week’s bye and put quarterback Jay Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Martz under scrutiny.
The Bears turned the ball over a season-worst six times in a 17-14 loss to Washington on Oct. 24, with Cutler throwing four interceptions. Cutler also got sacked four times, giving him 19 in his past three games and bringing his league-leading total to 27.
“There are so many things that all of us would like to do differently,” coach Lovie Smith said.
Trying to get the running game going appears to be one of the top things Smith and the Bears want to change.
Under Martz, Chicago’s offense has been unbalanced with 215 passes attempted to 156 rushes. The Bears, tied for 26th in rushing at 88.6 yards per game, have only run the ball more than 19 times in a game twice.
“It’s pretty obvious that we need to establish the run a little more to help out the passing game and then cut down on turnovers and hold onto the ball,” said running back Matt Forte, who leads Chicago with 352 rushing yards and is second with 303 receiving.
The Bears, one-half game behind NFC North-leading Green Bay, appear to have a decent chance of moving the ball on the ground against Buffalo, which is off to its worst start since the 1984 team opened 0-11.
The Bills (0-7) are last in the NFL against the run at 188.7 yards, and have allowed four of their last five opponents to reach the 200-yard mark – including a season-worst 274 in last Sunday’s 13-10 overtime loss to AFC West-leading Kansas City.
Despite another disappointing showing from the run defense, Buffalo allowed a season low in points after giving up at least 34 in each of its previous five games. It still wasn’t enough, however, as the Bills became the 12th NFL team to lose in OT on consecutive weekends following a 37-34 defeat to AFC North-leading Baltimore on Oct. 24.
“It’s horrible to think we’re the only winless team in the NFL. No one wants to be able to say that you’re part of that. But that’s the reality,” linebacker Paul Posluszny said. “But each week, man, we’re getting a step closer. You can’t get any closer than where we’re at.”
Shawne Merriman could eventually help the Bills get that elusive first victory. The former San Diego Chargers star linebacker was claimed Wednesday by Buffalo, which had the first shot at him because it has the league’s worst record.
Merriman is tentatively set to report to the Bills on Friday, and he has already been ruled out from playing against Chicago.
The Bills had several chances late against the Chiefs, but Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s pass intended for Lee Evans was intercepted at the Kansas City 27-yard line in the final minute of regulation and Rian Lindell missed a 53-yard field-goal attempt in overtime.
“We need to get over the hump, get one win, and then we think things will start rolling and bouncing in our direction,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick has done a solid job of guiding Buffalo’s offense, ranking second in the league with 12 TD passes since taking over as the starting quarterback in Week 3, but he could have trouble moving the ball against a sound Chicago defense.
The Bears, who expect to have five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs (left ankle) back after he missed most of the last two games, are fifth in the NFL in total defense at 317.0 yards and tied for fifth with 17 takeaways while allowing a league-low four TD passes.
“Our defense is doing what it’s supposed to do,” defensive end Israel Idonije said
Chicago’s defense led the way in the last meeting between these teams, forcing five turnovers and limiting the Bills to 145 yards in a 40-7 home win in 2006.
This is the third straight season the Bills are playing one regular-season home game in Toronto. They’ve yet to win one, losing to Miami in 2008 and the Jets last year.
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