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Hoge’s Notes: Bears Becoming More Dangerous In Playoff Race

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Matt Forte runs the ball as he is hit by defensive back Jordan Poyer of the Cleveland Browns. (Credit: Matt Sullivan)

Matt Forte runs the ball as he is hit by defensive back Jordan Poyer of the Cleveland Browns. (Credit: Matt Sullivan)

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By Adam Hoge-

CLEVELAND (CBS) — Asked if he’ll be watching the Lions play the Ravens Monday night, Bears running back Matt Forte had a simple answer.

“Of course.”

Then, when asked the obvious question about who he would be rooting for, Forte said: “I never root for the Lions. Ever.”

And any Lions players watching the Bears’ 38-31 win over the Browns Sunday certainly weren’t rooting for their rivals either.

The win had its ugly moments, but the Bears once again flashed their potential by putting up 21 points in the fourth quarter, this time with Jay Cutler back healthy as the team’s starting quarterback.

But what particularly might have the Lions attention is the improvement of the Bears’ defense. It’s still far from perfect, but for the third straight week, the defense gave the Bears’ offense a chance to win. It’s been particularly better the last two weeks and could get a boost next week with the return of linebacker Lance Briggs.

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“We said it about three weeks ago. I said we were a work in progress,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said Sunday. “We weren’t fitting the run right and then we weren’t tackling. A week ago we said we were fitting it. Today it appeared we tackled better.”

The Bears held the Browns to just 93 total rushing yards, the fewest since they held the Saints to 64 rushing yards in Week 5.

“It was a moral victory,” defensive end Shea McClellin said.

OK, so “moral victory” is usually used after losses, but considering how bad the run defense has been even in wins, you can see where McClellin was coming from.

The addition of defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff has certainly helped, as he’s provided the Bears with three straight good outings. Sunday he accounted for a tackle for loss and three quarterback hurries.

The Bears’ defense isn’t going to suddenly become one of the best units in the league, but with an explosive offense, its job is to simply give the Bears a chance to win. Sunday, the unit only allowed two touchdowns, with the last one coming with under a minute to go and the Bears’ holding a 14-point lead.

It may have been against the 28th-ranked rushing offense in the league, but the defense took another step forward Sunday. If the unit gets Briggs back next week, the Bears might have a realistic shot at winning their last two games of the season.

Big Bad Jeffery

Alshon Jeffery has made it a weekly habit to pull in the catch of the week. He did for the third week in a row Sunday when he somehow pulled in a floating Jay Cutler pass over two Cleveland Browns to score a 45-yard touchdown.

Cutler was hit on the play — and roughing the passer was called on linebacker Jabaal Sheard — which left the pass short.

“I was on the ground and I was like, ‘There’s (interception) number three’ because I just thought it was going to be floating 20 yards down field,” Cutler said. “Somehow it got all the way down there and Alshon does what Ashon does best: make plays in the air.”

Jeffery caught all five targets he saw in the game for 72 yards, while Brandon Marshall had six catches for 95 yards on 13 targets.

“I make my quarterback look good and he makes me look good,” Jeffery said.

Blame Game

The convenience of a win allowed Brandon Marshall to take a jab at Jay Cutler for his second interception of the game.

Marshall took the blame for the first interception, saying he ran a poor route, but “the second one, he just threw a terrible ball. That one was on Jay.”

Later, when Cutler entered the press conference room, Marshall added: “He just sucked on that one man. That was just the rust.”

Cutler laughed and took a jab at Marshall for not wearing a suit to the podium. He also wasn’t sure he agreed that the first one was Marshall’s fault.

Notables

- Trestman admitted he didn’t make “the best call” on a 3rd-and-8 hook screen call to Jeffery at the 9-yard-line early in the second quarter. Jeffery was stopped short and the Bears were held to a field goal.

- The Bears had another week with no major injuries. Cutler was cleated in the fourth quarter, but stayed in the game. Zack Bowman briefly left the game with an undisclosed injury, but returned. Defensive tackle Stephen Paea was limited with an ongoing turf toe issue

- Browns star cornerback Joe Haden left the game with a hip injury and did not return.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.

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