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After a year off, Ratliff hopes to help weak defense

2013-12-06T17:45:00Z 2013-12-07T14:30:13Z After a year off, Ratliff hopes to help weak defenseAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
December 06, 2013 5:45 pm  • 

LAKE FOREST | With all respect to the late Johnny Carson and his Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon, how desperate are the Bears?

The Bears are s-o-o-o-o desperate, they signed defensive tackle Landon Cohen off the street and defensive end Jay Ratliff, who hadn't been in pads since Nov. 18 of last year.

Now win out in your last four games and have a nice postseason, maybe.

Whereas Cohen is being used sparingly, the 6-foot-4, 303-pound Ratliff made his debut in Sunday's loss at Minnesota — the Bears' sixth in their last nine games.

Ratliff played 27 percent of the snaps and had one assist on a tackle. It was his first action in more than a year due to a torn groin muscle.

"It went OK for the first game," Ratliff said. "I haven't been sitting around in the offseason. I mean, my offseason. I've been working out really hard.

"It was good to get my feet wet (Sunday). It felt pretty good, knocking some of the rust off. I know exactly what I need to work on. There's no days off for me."

A four-time Pro Bowl selection, Ratliff can expect more playing time Monday night when the Bears (6-6) host Dallas (7-5), his former team.

Once again, the Bears need help to secure a wildcard spot. A sieve-like defense is the reason.

For starters, they can't stop the run, allowing a league-worst 153.6 yards per game.

Last season, the Bears gave up 1,627 rushing yards. This season, they've already allowed 1,843.

Players blame injuries to key personnel. Coach Marc Trestman blames faulty execution and mental mistakes.

The offense has also struggled, particularly in short-yardage situations and third-down conversions.

In the last two games (Rams, Vikings), the Bears amassed 904 total yards and scored only five touchdowns.

"We have to keep moving forward," Ratliff said. "We're a .500 team right now. You can look at that and just gloat over it and feel doomed. But I don't believe this team is going to do that and neither am I.

"We're going to keep on grinding."

The Bears' defense is ranked 28th, allowing 386 yards per game. Though Dallas controls its postseason hopes while sharing the NFC East lead with Philadelphia, it has the NFL's worst defense, allowing 421.6 yards a game.

Ratliff says teammates aren't setting their GPS and ready to skip town just yet.

"We know the mistakes we've made and will do everything in our power to correct them," said Ratliff, who played for Dallas from 2005-13.

"It's just another game to me. I don't get caught up in that silly rivalry or payback stuff. We're here to win."

Trestman has got a good feeling about Game 13, though what else could he say?

"It's a good carrot for us in terms of playing a game at home on Monday night," he said. "It'll be good for our football team and that's all we can control.

"There's a whole lotta football to be played."

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