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With Cutler sidelined, Bears fall short again

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CHICAGO (AP) - Jay Cutler was back home, nursing his concussion and watching as the Chicago Bears got pounded by the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.

Whether he'll be back behind center this weekend remains to be seen.

"That's the goal, and that's what we're hoping for," Cutler said Tuesday on ESPN Radio's "Waddle & Silvy" show.

He said he's feeling "as normal as can be" and will play again this season. He said he "can't say that for sure" when asked if he'll be ready to play against Minnesota.

Having their starting quarterback certainly would help the Bears, who are suddenly reeling after back-to-back losses to two of the league's top teams in Houston and San Francisco. What happened against the 49ers was particularly ugly and gave more fuel to skeptics who believe the Bears' record was fattened by lackluster opponents over the first half of the season.

Chicago, after all, is 0-3 against the top teams on their schedule when you add the loss at Green Bay in Week 2.

The Bears (7-3) are still in first place, tied with Green Bay for the NFC North lead, and that's something they pointed out afterward.

"That is the upside coming off of this loss," receiver Devin Hester said.

Coach Lovie Smith said, "We have to take 7-3 into it. And I'm not disappointed in us being at the top of our division with the best record, tied for the best record in our division. That's the football team that we are."

They won't be for long if this keeps up.

A defense that had been dominant got picked apart, with backup Colin Kaepernick throwing for 243 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start while Alex Smith sat out to heal from a concussion of his own. The 49ers scored on each of their first four possessions, and the Bears never recovered.

Their offense struggled again, and things were particularly bad in the trenches, with Aldon Smith terrorizing Jason Campbell for 5 1/2 sacks.

They got little from their run game, with Matt Forte managing just 63 yards, and Campbell, the experienced backup the Bears brought in during the offseason after crumbling with Caleb Hanie last year, couldn't do much. He threw for just 107 yards and got picked off twice.

Then again, the way the line was blocking, it might not have mattered if Cutler was playing.

Either way, it's not hard to see why Campbell used phrases such as "worst nightmare" and "wakeup call" afterward.

The Bears had a chance to show they could beat an elite team, and got flattened instead.

"I have never been on a team that works harder, coaches and players," said Brandon Marshall, who was swarmed all night and finished with two catches for 21 yards. "We really are excited about this opportunity we have, as far as the entirety of the season. There is no complacency. It seems like every time we win a game we work a little bit harder. I love that about this team. We just have to get better, especially on the offensive side of the ball, and that starts with the leaders. Me being one of the guys, I have to be better."

Beating the Vikings (6-4) is no sure thing.

League rushing leader Adrian Peterson has averaged just under 103 yards in eight games against them and went off for 224 in a game in 2007, the most ever by a Bears opponent. On the other side, Jared Allen tends to give them fits with 13 sacks in eight games against Chicago, and that doesn't bode well, whether it's Campbell or Cutler at quarterback.

And, of course, Cutler hopes it's him.

Asked if it's safe to say he did not pass all the tests he needed to and therefore was held out, Cutler said, "It's not safe to say. Before I even took a test, I met with Lovie and our trainers. Me and (defensive end) Shea (McClellin) _ pass or not pass the test, everyone was leaning toward us not playing."

Cutler said he hopes to take all the reps with the starters in practice this week. He has doctors' appointments on Wednesday and Friday.

"We have to take everything into account and see how I feel," Cutler said.

___

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