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Bears players on same page with their coach
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/22/2009 12:03 AM | Updated: 9/22/2009 12:22 AM

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The Bears aren't walking around all puffy-chested after defeating the Super Bowl-champion Pittsburgh Steelers, and with good reason.

They're a .500 team with a running game that has yet to break out of a slow jog. Just as they didn't treat the Week 1 loss at Green Bay as a death sentence, they're not looking at the victory over the Steelers as a ticket to the playoffs.

Big loss? Big win? Big deal.

"In the same way that we lost to Green Bay, we were quick to emphasize that it was just 1 loss," said Hunter Hillenmeyer, who has replaced injured Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker.

"While we were excited about winning (Sunday), it's just 1 win. It's great, but if they make those (2 missed) field goals, it ends up differently.

"We don't want to put too much stock into (thinking) all of a sudden we're this great team that can't be beat, because we were fortunate to come away with the win. Hopefully it gets a little momentum going, but we don't want to read too much into it either way."

That's the kind of levelheaded talk that coach Lovie Smith likes to hear from his players, especially at such an early stage of a long season. More than ever before, the current players seem to be reflecting the personality of their coach.

"Hopefully, I guess it would have to rub off on the team some kind of way," Smith said. "I don't think you can get too high or too low. You have to be even-keeled.

"We have so much football left to go, and the guys realize that. We have a lot of professionals. They realize what's going on. We're 1-1. What has 1 win gotten you? You're not going to the playoffs with 1 win."

And it's unlikely the Bears are going to the playoffs with a running game that is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry. Featured runner Matt Forte is averaging only 2.2 with 84 yards on 38 tries.

"We realize that we need to get more production from our running game," Smith said, "but I think our running game is what allowed us to pass the ball as well as we did (against the Steelers). Teams come in thinking about stopping our run."

But they won't continue to do that if the Bears don't get better on the ground.

They had just 43 rushing yards on 18 carries Sunday, and Forte was held to 29 yards on 13 carries with a long gain of 5 yards.

"We haven't had a lot of yards," Smith admitted. "I think with being a running team and continuing to run the ball - and just by people knowing that we're a running team - that's doing enough in itself right there.

"Some days a team will gang up on the run, and we'll beat them passing the ball. I'm still pleased with what we're doing with the running game."

The Bears actually may have made a wise choice in not obsessing over the run game Sunday.

They ran the ball just six times in the first half while throwing 20 passes. But very few teams run the ball effectively against the Steelers, so why keep banging your head against a concrete wall?

"Of course we would like to run the football," Smith said. "But if (they) come with that pressure (vs. the run), and we single up on the outside (receivers), you have to throw the ball, and the guys on the outside have to win the 1-on-1 battles, and we won it constantly throughout the day."

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner is looking for balance in the attack, but that doesn't mean the number of run plays and pass plays have to be identical every week.

"Some games it's going to go a little more in the direction of runs, sometimes it's going to go more in the direction of pass," Turner said. "At the end of the season we want to have balance."