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Broncos Ready to Battle Bears

Posted Dec 10, 2011

The Denver Broncos are set for a Week 14 matchup against the visiting Chicago Bears.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The AFC West-leading Broncos know the Bears won't have quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte available for Sunday's game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

They also know the injuries to those two starters have no bearing on the talent Chicago will line up defensively.

And scoring on that defense will be a tough, yet exciting challenge for the Denver offense.

"They're really good.  It's really exciting for me to get a chance to play against a defense like this," quarterback Tim Tebow said, who is 5-1 as a starter this season. "It feels like I've been watching them for years, that same defense, that same scheme. It will be exciting playing against Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers, some of the best guys for the last decade."

The likes of Urlacher, Briggs and Peppers combine to form an imposing, star-studded front seven. It's a group that ranks eighth in the NFL against the run and it's a group Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy greatly respects.

"They've got very talented players," McCoy said. "Their front seven is outstanding, one of the best we'll play in the league all year."

That said, the Denver offense is a confident unit heading into this critical Week 14 matchup between teams with identical 7-5 records.

The Broncos -- currently riding a five-game win streak -- continue to lead the league in rushing, averaging 158.9 yards on the ground per game. Tebow's ability to make plays with his feet has complimented the tough running of tailback Willis McGahee -- the AFC's fifth-leading rusher.

McGahee is listed as questionable after suffering a knee injury last week in Minnesota, but the running back expects to play and he expects the Denver offense to continue its strong play on the ground against the Bears' big names up front.

"Everybody has big names on their defense," McGahee said. "We have big names on our defense. We're not just going to switch up because of who the names are."

Chicago's offense is continuing to adjust with quarterback Caleb Hanie under center.

The Bears enjoyed a five-game win streak of their own before Cutler suffered his thumb injury in Week 11. With Hanie starting both games since, Chicago is 0-2.  

Tomorrow Hanie won't have the luxury of handing the ball off to one of the most productive running backs in the league. Forte -- who's third in the NFL in rushing -- has been ruled out with a knee injury. Marion Barber serves as his primary replacement in the backfield and Broncos safety Brian Dawkins, the former Eagle who often faced Barber when he was in Dallas, knows the physical challenge Barber presents.

"He's a hard runner, a hard runner downhill," Dawkins said. "If you go in to tackle him, you better bring everything you've got to bring him down, because if you don't, he's going to continue to run on down the field. I have much respect for Barber."

According to defensive end Jason Hunter, no one on the Chicago roster will be underestimated.

"You can't take them lightly," Hunter said. "I've seen too many times in my career where a team's starter was down and a backup stepped in and played well. From week to week, you have to be prepared for whoever's in there, because it's all the NFL. When you get to this level, everybody's good. There isn't too much that separates a starter from a backup, so you have to prepare and be ready to execute on all levels."

That respect extends to the Bears' special teams, a unit headlined by ever-dangerous returner Devin Hester.

Broncos punter Britton Colquitt and his coverage team will do their best to limit Hester's explosiveness, but Head Coach John Fox admitted that he might instruct Colquitt not to take any chances and punt the ball out of bounds.

"That could be an option, yes," Fox said. "We are aware of him and that he's a great player."

Containing Hester will be supremely important Sunday, as will the game's outcome with Denver fighting each week to hold off the 7-5 Raiders and finish atop the AFC West as the postseason draws near.

"We're at a critical time of our season right now," Fox said. "People remember what you do in December. We've got our work cut out for us. We have a really good Chicago team coming to town, and we'll have to play well to beat them."