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Bears see no trouble getting motivated for Packers

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[December 22, 2008]  LAKE FOREST (AP) -- True, the Chicago Bears could be out of the playoff chase by the time they take the field. If they are, they still won't have to look too hard for motivation against Green Bay on Monday night.

RestaurantThey can look at the video.

Or they can just check the final score: Green Bay 37, Chicago 3.

The Bears got picked apart by Aaron Rodgers, run over by Ryan Grant and simply mauled by the defense last month at Lambeau Field in what was by far their most lopsided loss this season. The fact that their rivals delivered the beating only added to the pain.

"After losing the way we did, that makes it even more of a heated battle," defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. "I can't wait. I really, really want to try to settle the score."

Revenge is a strong motivator. Pride is, too.

While settling a score would be a nice consolation, the Bears (8-6) are still clinging to the hope they can somehow slip into the playoffs even though they would need the equivalent of a desperation pass completion.

The most direct route would be to win the NFC North, but that's just about out of reach.

Unless they win their two remaining games and Minnesota (9-5) loses its final two, the Bears can forget that. And the Vikings, who hold the tiebreaker over Chicago, could wrap up the division with a win over Atlanta on Sunday.


The wild card is an even longer shot. If Dallas, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia win this weekend, the Bears would be out of the running. So there's a good chance Chicago could win its final two games and still miss the playoffs despite a 10-6 record.

"I think we'll be up for this game no matter what," said quarterback Kyle Orton, who was limited by a sprained ankle while throwing for 133 yards against Green Bay. "Hopefully, we have a chance to move one step closer to the playoffs."

The Packers (5-9) were right in the running when they beat Chicago to forge a three-way tie for the NFC North lead with the Bears and Vikings last month. Then, they tripped.

Four straight losses have knocked them out of playoff contention and caused bickering among themselves.

A 51-29 pounding at New Orleans started the slide, and crushing close losses to Carolina, Houston and Jacksonville followed. Those three were by a combined total of 11 points, and they followed a similar pattern.

The Packers led in the fourth quarter behind Rodgers, only to see the defense give it away and ask the quarterback to win it again.

So far, Rodgers has provided late sparks but not a last-minute victory.

But most of the blame goes to a defense that has been hit hard by injuries, an inconsistent pass rush and an inability to defend the run.

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"To just put it on one thing, you can't," linebacker Brady Poppinga said. "Because there's so many other moving parts, so many other situational things happening."

One bright spot is Charles Woodson, who moved from cornerback to safety because of Atari Bigby's nagging injuries and made the Pro Bowl. So did safety Nick Collins for the first time in his career, but it's been a frustrating year for the defense.

Expected to step forward with Brett Favre gone, Green Bay's defense ranks 24th overall, and emotions boiled over during last week's 20-16 loss at Jacksonville. Poppinga and cornerback Al Harris feuded on the field over a blown pass coverage assignment, and rookie tight end Jermichael Finley drew Rodgers' wrath for lining up incorrectly on a third-and-goal play just before halftime.

"It's frustrating just because we're underachieving," said Grant, who ran for 145 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Bears. "The potential, we know the type of ability we have. We have to go out and perform at that level. We need to put it together. We understand the situation now. We need to finish strong."

They would like nothing more than to do that at Chicago's expense.

The offensive line dominated the Bears last month, but the Packers are now without injured right tackle Mark Tauscher. That should help Chicago's defense, which failed to register a sack for the third time this season while allowing Rodgers to throw for 227 yards and two touchdowns.

Since then, the Bears have won three of four, and they will try to make it three in a row for the first time since the 2006 NFC championship season. With any luck, they'll still have a shot at the playoffs -- however slim it might be.

"If we take care of everything on our end, hopefully other teams won't take care of the things they need to take care of," nose tackle Anthony Adams said.

[Associated Press; By ANDREW SELIGMAN]

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

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