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Prime-time challenge: Sizzling Rams
Chances are the Bears will be singing the blues again in St. Louis Monday night after another marquee game.
At 2-7, the Bears are headed nowhere any self-respecting NFL team aspires to be in January out of the playoffs and ignored.
On the other hand, the arrow seems to be pointing up for the St. Louis Rams, who are in the process of reversing an 0-5 start with a chance to reach .500 before a national television audience Monday night at the Edward Jones Dome.
"They are obviously going in a different direction than we are right now," Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "It's on Monday night, so we don't want to get embarrassed. We have been in every game we've played [this season]. When we play them, hopefully, we will have a chance to win in the fourth quarter."
Rams coach Mike Martz is wary of a wounded Bears team searching desperately for a victory.
"They have a chance to redeem themselves in front of the whole country," Martz said.
With little more to play for than professional pride, will the Bears be able to summon enough emotion to compete with the red-hot Rams?
"That's what the head coach has to do. He has to keep everybody's head focused," wide receiver Marcus Robinson said. "But with me being a leader, I have to just go out and keep working hard and let the other players see that. We all like to win. We just have to push ourselves. I don't care if it's the last game of the season and you are 1-14."
Martz was able to appeal to his Rams players after their ominous start to this season.
"I think everybody takes that 0-5 start individually and in different ways and responds to it differently," Martz said. "It was a very difficult time for all of us. I think probably, overall, the hardest thing for this whole football team was we won 16 games last year. We lost the Super Bowl and at no time throughout the off-season was anyone made to feel like they had done anything good.
"That just goes with losing the Super Bowl. Unfortunately I didn't do a good enough job of keeping them uplifted throughout the off-season."
When Urlacher looks at his teammates in the defensive huddle, he says he sees the same intensity as he did when the Bears were 2-0.
"It's hard looking in their faces because I am so sick and tired, but I am trying to give them the call and they are looking at me," Urlacher said. "They still want to do well and so do I. It's easier said than done. You still have to make the plays when it comes down to it. We just make key mistakes on key plays and it's killing us."
Five of the Bears' losses were by six points or less. The team has dropped two overtime decisions.
Meanwhile, the Rams are armed and dangerous when it comes to offensive weapons, even though injured starter Kurt Warner will remain a backup to Marc Bulger at quarterback and running back Marshall Faulk is less than 100 percent physically.
Faulk needs 62 yards to join Eric Dickerson as the only NFL players to rush for 5,000 with two different teams.
"He's so fast and there's always a hole there for him. He makes a hole or he finds it," Urlacher said of Faulk. "I hope he plays. I have never played against him."
St. Louis has scored at least 27 points in four straight games after not reaching that number in its first five. Bulger has guided the Rams' third-ranked passing offense with 1,149 yards passing and 10 touchdowns.
The Bears have not lost eight straight games since 1978.
On the Bears' injury front, center Olin Kreutz did practice Friday as he continues to recuperate from his appendectomy Monday. His status remains 50-50, although missing the two primary days of practice make starting less likely.
"We'll go day to day on Olin," coach Dick Jauron said. "That may go right to Monday."
Kevin Dogins is set to make his first NFL start at center in place of Kreutz. Dogins started nine games at left guard with Tampa Bay in 1998-99 and opened at right guard for the Bears two weeks ago when Chris Villarrial was out. He played center in college at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Staff reporter John Mullin contributed to this story.