Bears hope to build momentum

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With little room for error to make the playoffs, the Chicago Bears did exactly what they wanted against Jacksonville on Sunday. They dominated the Jaguars, 23-10. Now, the Bears need to build some momentum.

With little room for error to make the playoffs, the Chicago Bears did exactly what they wanted against Jacksonville on Sunday.

They dominated the Jaguars, 23-10. Now the Bears need to build some momentum.

“We all hope it’s a turnaround game,” defensive end Alex Brown said. “We all hope it’s a step in the right direction, but we’ll find out Thursday. We’ll find out if we can build on this.”

New Orleans visits on Thursday, and just like the last two meetings at Soldier Field, the stakes are high.

The Bears routed the Saints 39-14 two years ago in the NFC championship game and ended their playoff hopes with a 33-25 victory in the finale last season. Now both teams are trying to get back to the postseason after missing it in 2007, and both will have to gain ground to make it.

A 34-14 loss at Minnesota two weeks ago left the Bears (7-6) a game behind the Vikings in the NFC North and in a shaky position. Their odds at a wild-card berth are microscopic, and they’ll need help to win the division.

They got some from the lowly Jaguars. Houston pitched in too, by beating third-place Green Bay and all but eliminating the Packers from contention, but Detroit didn’t come through for the Bears.

Minnesota beat the Lions to clinch a possible tiebreaker with the Bears, meaning they would have to finish with a better record. Although Chicago appears to have a lighter schedule, that’s no easy task considering it hasn’t won more than two in a row since the 2006 season.

They will have 11 days to prepare for a Monday night game against Green Bay before closing the season at Houston, which has a losing record. The Vikings still have to play Arizona, Atlanta and the New York Giants.

Even if the Bears go 3-0, they would need Minnesota to go 1-2.

“We aren’t really worrying about that,” tight end Greg Olsen said. “If we don’t take care of our business, it doesn’t really matter what Minnesota does.”

It would help if Kyle Orton returned to the form he showed before spraining his ankle against Detroit last month. He’s still not there, although he did take a step in that direction on Sunday.

He was 20-of-34 with 219 yards, two touchdowns and an interception after completing just 49 percent of his passes the previous three games. It was a big improvement over his performance at Minnesota a week earlier, when he got picked off three times.

“I thought it was a very solid, good game for him,” offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. “He did what we asked him to do. He made the plays when he had opportunities to make the plays, got us in and out of the right things.”

Orton also eased some concerns about his ankle, although he did say: “It’s going to be a yearlong battle.”

And he got the tight ends at least a little more involved than they had been lately.

While Olsen and Desmond Clark combined for just five receptions, they delivered the Bears’ two touchdowns.  AP

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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