Bears set for home opener

The Bears were the only NFL team to play their first two games on the road. Now, they will finally get some home cooking when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at Soldier Field. Kickoff is at noon. After opening the season with a thrilling victory

The Bears were the only NFL team to play their first two games on the road. Now, they will finally get some home cooking when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at Soldier Field.

Kickoff is at noon.

After opening the season with a thrilling victory over the Indianapolis Colts, the Bears came crashing back to earth this past weekend with a 20- 17 loss to Carolina.

As high as they were after that win over the Colts, that’s how low the Bears were after blowing a 17-3 third quarter lead to the Panthers.

“It’s a disappointing loss,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “Whenever you have control of a football game like that, you have to finish. We’re 1-1 right now, but there is a long way to go in this season. Next week we have to correct some things.”

While three costly turnovers and several penalties in the loss to the Panthers is a cause for concern for the Bears, an even bigger worry is the health of kick return specialist Devin Hester, who left the game with sore ribs in the third quarter, never to return.

Smith said Hester’s status for Sunday’s game would be evaluated later this week.

A scheduled MRI on Hester’s ribs Monday was postponed.

“As far as how long he’s going to be out, I’m not going to get into that,” Smith said. Losing Hester for any period of time would be devastating for the Bears.

However, offensive coordinator Ron Turner said there are other players who can step up for him.

Danieal Manning, who had a decent kickoff return after Hester left the game, would seem to be the logical choice to replace him on punts and kickoffs.

Tampa Bay, meanwhile, is at 1-1 on the young season and will be coming into the game on a high note after recording a 24-9 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Former Bear Brian Griese has taken over as the Buccaneers starting quarterback.

It was Griese who rallied the Bears to a win over the Philadelphia Eagles last season and nearly pulled out a win over the Minnesota Vikings.

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In photo: Devin Hester races past a defender during the Bears loss to the Carolina Panthers. After suffering a rib injury in the game, Hester’s status in the Sunday home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is uncertain.

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