Daily Herald
Manning focused on wins, not playing time
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 12/4/2007 12:17 AM

Frustrated cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. has been phased out of the defense in recent weeks.

He has been passed up by rookie Trumaine McBride in the base defense and often replaced by strong-side linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer when the Bears are in nickel defense -- previously Manning's forte.

Manning was barely on the field Sunday, even in passing situations, and it appears doubtful he will be around to collect on the final three years of the five-year, $21 million contract he signed as a restricted free agent before the 2006 season.

"For me personally, it doesn't really matter," Manning said of his situation. "What matters is us winning games. I just have to go out there and work and whatever happens, happens.

"The most important thing is winning and losing right now. Personal stuff can wait. That's stuff you can talk about in the off-season."

Little turnaround time: Neither the Bears nor the Washington Redskins would elect to play Thursday on short rest, since both are coming off bitter defeats and the Redskins had the added emotional burden of Sean Taylor's funeral Monday.

"Definitely you're sore," said Bears offensive tackle John St. Clair. "But that's what a hot tub is for -- to get in there and get loose and get ready to play the game. It's just a warrior mentality the guys have to have."

St. Clair started on the right side Sunday in place of injured Fred Miller (ankle), but Thursday's starter hasn't been revealed.

Brandon McGowan will get a second straight start at strong safety in place of Adam Archuleta, who was relegated to special-teams duty for the first time Sunday.

Changing trends: Prior to Sunday's 21-16 loss to the New York Giants, the Bears were 20-3 under Lovie Smith in games in which they won the turnover battle, including a 2-0 mark this season.

And they didn't just win the battle Sunday, it was a blowout, with the Bears forcing 4 turnovers and allowing none.

"Normally we win football games when we win the turnover ratio," Smith said. "Of course we won it (Sunday) and still weren't able to get the win."

The Bears hadn't lost a game in which they were plus-4 or more in turnover differential in more than 37 years, not since Nov. 29, 1970, when they lost 21-20 on the road against the Baltimore Colts despite finishing plus-5 in turnovers.

The Bears are now 27-3 when leading going into the fourth quarter under Smith after blowing a 16-7 lead Sunday.

Danger ahead: Redskins running back Clinton Portis has had some monster performances in his three games against the Bears.

In 2005, he rushed 21 times for 121 yards in a 9-7 opening-day Washington victory.

A year earlier he picked up 171 yards on 36 attempts to lead a 13-10 win, and in 2003, as a Bronco, he rushed for 165 yards on 14 carries, but the Bears won 19-10.

"Portis is enough to concern us," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's one of the best running backs in the league. They're committed to the run. Eventually we're going to have to stop the run, it's as simple as that."