LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Olin Kreutz realizes the good vibes could all get tossed aside if the Chicago Bears falter this week, so the veteran center wasn't exactly uncorking champagne bottles after their biggest win in a long while.
Nor were his teammates.
The Bears realize they still have some work to do no matter how impressive Sunday's 31-26 win over Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles was.
"We're nowhere near where we want to be," Kreutz said. "We need to keep fighting and get better. By no means are we satisfied."
It would be hard for the Bears (8-3) to play better than they did against the Eagles. They delivered their best all-around performance in recent memory while beating one of the NFC's top teams.
They've won four straight, lead Green Bay by a game in the NFC North and are winning over doubters, but a loss at Detroit this week would be a major letdown — particularly after a performance like this.
For all the talk about Philadelphia's speed, the Bears looked like the fastest team on the field, whether it was the defense getting to Vick or the offense and special teams running past the Eagles.
"Truly, all three phases, we have a lot of speed and a lot of ability," defensive end Israel Idonije said.
Although Vick passed for 333 yards, the Bears sacked him four times, prevented big plays and made enough of their own to come away with the win. Chris Harris intercepted a pass in the end zone with the Bears up by a point late in the first half, leading to a touchdown that made it 21-13 at the break.
It was a good day for the offense, too, with Jay Cutler tying a career-high with four TD passes while throwing for 247 yards and Matt Forte running for 117. Six plays went for 28 yards or more, including a 61-yard run by Forte that set up the first touchdown.
And when the defense wasn't putting the offense in good position, the special teams were.
Daniel Manning returned three kickoffs for 88 yards, including a 44-yarder. Devin Hester broke off a 46-yard kickoff return and ran back three in all for 78 yards.
There are still doubts about the offensive line, not to mention Cutler's penchant for mistakes, but there's no debating the Bears are in a good spot.
"We've continued to progress," tight end Greg Olsen said. "That can't do anything but help your confidence, especially with some young guys getting in the fire now with a real tense streak of games here, almost like a long playoff run. It's exciting and I think guys are looking forward to this process going throughout the rest of the regular season. And with the teams that we have coming in at home and three division games on the road, I think it's going to be a fun final five games."
There are difficult home games remaining against New England and the New York Jets, and the road has some potential bumps, starting with Detroit.
Sure, the Lions are last in the NFC North at 2-9, but the Bears barely beat them in the opener. A rules technicality wiped out what looked like a late go-ahead touchdown catch by Calvin Johnson, preserving a 19-14 win.
Chicago also visits Minnesota on Dec. 20 and finishes at Green Bay two weeks later in a game that could determine the division championship and whether the Bears get homefield advantage in the playoffs.
"Do we talk about homefield for the playoffs? We talk about winning every game each week," coach Lovie Smith said. "We talk about winning our division. We have the same goals each year. Those things take care of themselves a little bit. We realize the landscape right now. This late in the season, you need to pay attention to that a little bit, but not a lot."
Not too long ago, the season appeared to be slipping away from the Bears.
They got off to a 3-0 start that culminated with what looked like a statement win over Green Bay, then stumbled into their bye with three losses in four games. Since then, they've abandoned their pass-happy approach for more balance on offense, the protection has improved and Cutler is taking less of a beating.
"That's easy to kind of get nonchalant, complacent," Olsen said. "We had that same thing happen after the big Green Bay game, but I think we've matured and moved on from that."
Well, matured to a point. Smith seemed less than thrilled with Cutler for a fourth-quarter outburst that led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Cutler thought Ernie Sims should have been called for interference on an incompletion to Forte and yelled and yanked his chinstrap in disgust.
"Jay's a fiery leader and all that, but you have to keep your emotions under wraps a little bit when you're dealing with the officials," Smith said. "I'd be the first guy screaming and yelling if I say they change the calls; they don't. I could see why he was upset; we were all upset. But just like we weren't perfect in the game, the officials definitely weren't perfect, either."
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