Back-to-back games at the Meadowlands followed by a trip to AFC East leader New England?

This looked like trouble for the Chicago Bears. Instead, they beat the New York Jets 10-0 on Sunday to complete a Meadowlands sweep.

And they used an old formula: key defensive plays and a sound running game. Throw in Chris Harris’ recovery of an onside kick by New York to start the second half that led to a field goal. Then, mix in one big touchdown by Mark Bradley, and it adds up to a 9-1 record for Chicago.

“We knew it would be a tough task,” coach Lovie Smith said on Monday. “We got two of the wins. Now, we’re down to one team.”

A win next week and losses by Green Bay and Minnesota would give the Bears their second straight NFC North title, but they have bigger goals than that, starting with the conference championship. They put themselves in good position for the No. 1 seed when they beat the Giants on Nov. 12.

“Some guys can think that far ahead, but I can’t,” Smith said. “I can tell you a lot about New England.”

Eagles

Without Donovan McNabb, the outlook seems bleak. The Eagles are getting too familiar with not having their star quarterback. For the third time in five years, McNabb has sustained a season-ending injury in mid-November.

Now the Eagles (5-5) must find a way to win games with veteran Jeff Garcia or A.J. Feeley leading an offense that was ranked first in the NFL until Sunday’s 31-13 loss to Tennessee.

Coach Andy Reid wouldn’t choose a starter for the upcoming game at Indianapolis, saying he needed to speak to his coaching staff first.

Bills

With just a handful of ticks on the clock, and the Bills needing a touchdown to win, J.P. Losman knew what he was – and wasn’t – about to do.

“In the huddle, J.P. said, ‘I’m not throwing a check-down this time. I got to take a shot at the end zone, so guys, get open,”‘ said receiver Peerless Price, who did exactly what his quarterback said, hauling in Losman’s 15-yard strike to give Buffalo a 24-21 comeback victory over Houston on Sunday.

The win was Losman’s first fourth-quarter comeback of his two-year starting career, and perhaps the game that propels him to the next level in his bumpy NFL development.

“This was my first time pulling through it,” Losman said. “I’ve had chances before and didn’t come through. It felt great.”

Dolphins

Miami gained 7 yards rushing Monday, which is better than it did on any carry Sunday against Minnesota.

Elias Sports Bureau reviewed a play in the first half of the game and changed a 7-yard loss by quarterback Joey Harrington from a rush to a sack. As a result, the Dolphins’ net rushing total improved from minus-3 yards to plus-4 yards in 13 carries.

That’s still a franchise low, and a team defensive record for the Vikings. The Dolphins won 24-20, making them the first team to win with such a poor rushing total since 1986.

The Dolphins may be without two ailing defensive backs Thursday when they play at Detroit.

Starting cornerback Will Allen (groin) and reserve safety Travares Tillman (hand) were hurt in Sunday’s win over Minnesota. Allen’s status is “day to day at best,” coach Nick Saban said Monday, and Tillman was scheduled to be examined by a specialist.

Titans

Tight end Ben Troupe will get a second opinion for his right ankle that he hurt on his 14-yard touchdown catch against Philadelphia. Troupe already has had X-rays, and coach Jeff Fisher said the ankle needs further studies. When asked if Troupe’s ankle was broken, Fisher said, “We’re going to send him out and get a second opinion.”

Troupe has 13 catches for 150 yards after a career-high 55 receptions a year ago. The Titans already have placed tight end Erron Kinney on injured reserve. But Fisher said Ben Hartsock, claimed off waivers last month from Indianapolis, could help because he started practicing last week.

That leaves only second-year Bo Scaife and Casey Cramer healthy among the tight ends.

Panthers

Coach John Fox has seem some bad films on Monday mornings this season. The latest tape is headed to his classics library, though.

“I think it was as good of team defense as we’ve played this year,” Fox said after reviewing the defensive film of the Panthers’ 15-0 win over St. Louis. “There were times where the coverage made the quarterback hold the ball and it bought time for the rush. There were times when the rush broke free and might have covered up some problems in the coverage. … It was definitely our best tackling game.”

The Panthers held the Rams to 111 yards and had a team record-tying seven sacks in handing St. Louis its first shutout since 1998. The Panthers (6-4) have allowed 10 points in two games and moved into a first-place tie with New Orleans in the NFC South.

“We’re starting to feel each other,” said safety Mike Minter, who scheduled weekly dinners among defensive players three weeks ago to create chemistry. “With so many new guys coming in there, they didn’t understand what it takes to play on this Carolina Panthers defense.”

Buccaneers

Coach Jon Gruden didn’t bother heading home to savor a victory over Washington. With another game only four days away, he headed to the office Sunday night to get an early start on preparing for Thursday’s matchup against the Dallas Cowboys – the Buccaneers’ first appearance on Thanksgiving Day.

Not only does Gruden face installing a game plan, but he has to determine how much of it he can reasonably cover in practice during a short week.

The players were off Monday, meaning they’ll have one full practice Tuesday and travel to Dallas after a walkthrough on Wednesday morning.

“You can’t practice everything,” Gruden said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys playing. I’m a little uneasy about it, but I’m eager to see what we can get done.”

The Bucs are two-thirds of the way through a demanding stretch that has them playing three times in 11 days, with two games on the road. After losing at Carolina last week, they rebounded Sunday to beat Washington 20-17. The victory stopped a three-game losing streak, and the players are upbeat about playing on Thanksgiving.

“It’s a challenge, but teams have been doing it for years,” cornerback Ronde Barber said. “This is our first experience with it. I think Jon will be smart with the schedule.”

Falcons

Offensive guard Matt Lehr was added to the active roster Monday and Atlanta placed defensive end Patrick Kerney on injured reserve. The Kerney announcement was only a formality to clear a roster spot for Lehr. Kerney was lost for the season when he suffered a torn pectoral muscle against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 12. Kerney was leading the Falcons with five sacks when he suffered the injury.

Kerney’s streak of 105 consecutive starts, the second-longest active streak among NFL defensive linemen and the third-longest streak in Falcons history, is over.

Coach Jim Mora said Monday he expects Lehr to start at left guard Sunday against New Orleans. Lehr started the first five games of the season before serving a four-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s steroids policy.

Lions

Detroit couldn’t even beat lowly Arizona, and now coach Rod Marinelli is trying to get his team to forget about the loss quickly because Joey Harrington-led Miami will be in town on Thanksgiving Day.

“That was the first thing we talked about last night in the locker room,” Marinelli said Monday. “I said, ‘This is disappointing, tough pill, but we have to immediately lick the wounds and move on.’ We have to wire in to do our job.”

That job for the Lions (2-8) includes beating Harrington, who was traded just four seasons after the Lions drafted him third overall. He has helped Miami (4-6) win three straight games.

Harrington’s return to Ford Field – where he was booed unmercifully – will provide something intriguing in what seems to be a lackluster matchup. After losing to Atlanta last Thanksgiving, the Lions fired Steve Mariucci, and cornerback Dre’ Bly later blamed Harrington for it.

Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers is eligible to return this week after serving a four-game suspension for taking a banned substance that was in a weight-loss supplement, but Marinelli is not sure if Rogers will play. He had knee surgery during his suspension.

“I think it will be tough, to be honest,” Marinelli said.

Texans

Many Texans thought last week’s win over Jacksonville would be a turning point. Instead of building on the victory, the Texans followed up with a demoralizing loss to the Bills. Now they are back in the all-too-familiar place of trying to regroup after yet another tough defeat.

The Bills beat Houston 24-21 on a touchdown catch by Peerless Price with 13 seconds left Sunday.

“It’s just frustrating because it is so hard to win in this league, and when you let one go you second-guess yourself,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “I’m sitting there thinking about eight or 10 calls, not just one.”

Cornerback Dunta Robinson, who has spent his three-year career in Houston, said Sunday’s loss was especially painful.

“I feel terrible,” he said. “I hate to say it, but I’ve lost a lot of games here, and this is the worst feeling out of all the games I’ve ever lost.”

Houston’s last three losses have been by an average of just more than four points.

Rams

Scott Linehan, who came to St. Louis promising a balanced attack, resembled his pass-happy predecessor in his latest game.

Linehan abandoned the run early and did a play-calling impersonation of Mike Martz in a 15-0 loss at Carolina on Sunday. The offensive line is hamstrung by Orlando Pace’s season-ending triceps injury, this on top of losing center Andy McCollum early in the season.

Resulting problems factored into an unbalanced mix of 41 pass plays and only eight runs as the Rams (4-6) got shut out for the first time since 1998 and managed only 111 total yards against a defense that ranked in the middle of the pack. St. Louis has lost five in a row after a 4-1 start, spoiling Linehan’s first season as head coach.

“Not one of our better days, certainly,” Linehan said Monday. “Offensively, we didn’t get anything going.”

Pace, who tore a triceps muscle on his left arm last week against Seattle, has been to the Pro Bowl seven straight seasons. His replacement at left tackle on Sunday, journeyman Adam Goldberg, is a big step down.

“It’s a factor, but we have to move on,” Linehan said. “We need to keep finding more and more ways to adjust. We can sit around and lament the fact that we don’t have him, or we can go out, get better, and find ways to get it done.

“That’s what we’re going to do.”

49ers

Backup linebacker T.J. Slaughter will be placed on injured reserve soon after tearing a tendon on his left ring finger Sunday. He will have surgery this week.

WR Arnaz Battle, who caught a touchdown pass against Seattle, underwent surgery Monday to place two small screws in his broken hand. Battle, who was hurt last week but played against the Seahawks with a protective glove on his hand, will wear a cast during practice before going back to the glove in St. Louis.

CB Shawntae Spencer and tackle Jonas Jennings both have sprained ankles, but Spencer’s injury is thought to be more serious. He was sidelined in the second half against Seattle, and backup Sammy Davis was beaten for a TD catch by Darrell Jackson.

AP-ES-11-20-06 2015EST



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