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NFL: Bears await big rematch against Lions

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald pulls in a pass as Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman closes during the Bears' 28-13 victory Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald pulls in a pass as Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman closes during the Bears' 28-13 victory Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.

It’s probably too late to send a Christmas card to the Bears’ practice facility at Halas Hall.

However, a get-well-soon card should arrive in plenty of time before Sunday’s kickoff.

After a day off for Christmas, the Bears returned to the practice field Wednesday to prepare for their regular-season finale Sunday against the Detroit Lions. In order to receive a NFC wild-card playoff berth, the Bears must beat the Lions, and the Green Bay Packers must beat the Minnesota Vikings.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said his players should only worry about one-half of the equation.

“As much as anything, we wanted to be relevant this week in the playoff picture, and we are,” said Smith, who is seeking his fourth playoff appearance in nine seasons with the Bears. “We know we need help, but we have to earn it.”

The Bears made the playoffs one of the past four seasons, in 2010.

For evidence that the Bears can beat Detroit, see the teams’ meeting in Week 7 at Soldier Field. Neither team moved the ball easily on offense, but the Bears held on for a 13-7 win behind a Brandon Marshall touchdown and a pair of Robbie Gould field goals.

Jay Cutler avoided throwing any interceptions, but he was sacked five times and completed 16 of 31 passes for 150 yards. Matt Forte rushed 22 times for 96 yards.

The Bears’ defense did most of the heavy lifting against the Lions, forcing eight punts, two fumbles and an interception to go along with one touchdown allowed.

Bears nickelback D.J. Moore picked off a pass by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Urlacher and Julius Peppers pounced on a pair of fumbles.

Charles Tillman limited Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson to three catches for 34 yards.

But the Bears were mostly healthy when they met the Lions on a Monday night in mid-October. Rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery was their only starter who was out because of an injury.

This time around, the Bears might have to play the Lions without a few injured starters. Safety Chris Conte pulled his hamstring late in the first half against the Arizona Cardinals and is a question mark for next weekend, while Forte injured his ankle early in the second half and moved slowly in a walking boot after the game.

Linebacker Brian Urlacher, defensive tackle Henry Melton and offensive lineman Jonathan Scott all sat out because of injuries, and it’s too soon to know whether they will be able to return against the Lions.

The Bears signed journeyman safety Troy Nolan to take the roster spot that was vacated Monday by waiving wideout Dane Sanzenbacher. Nolan likely will be the third safety Sunday behind starters Major Wright and Anthony Walters.

What: Bears (9-6) at Lions (4-11)

Where: Ford Field, Detroit

When: Noon Sunday

Line: Bears by 3

Over/under: 44½

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