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updated: 11/4/2012 6:28 PM

The real fun begins now for Bears

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  • Next up for coach Lovie Smith and the Bears (7-1): the Houston Texas (7-1) at home and the San Francisco 49ers (6-2) on the road.

    Next up for coach Lovie Smith and the Bears (7-1): the Houston Texas (7-1) at home and the San Francisco 49ers (6-2) on the road.
    Associated Press


A certain former Chicago baseball manager always said that winning is fun and fun is winning.

Not even the contentious Bears defense would contest that notion.

Late in Sunday afternoon's 51-20 victory over the Titans in Nashville the Bears looked like they were in that insurance commercial.

You know, the one where policyholders supposedly are as happy as Gallagher at a farmers market and a witch in broom factory.

On this day Bears leaders Brian Urlacher and Jay Cutler exchanged pleasantries and smiles on the sideline.

Running back Matt Forte and wide receiver Brandon Marshall horsed around a few yards away as the clock ticked down.

Bears on the field, many of them reserves at that point, laughed in the huddle as they prepared for kneel-downs to end the game.

Let the good times roll, fellas.

The challenge now is to demonstrate that the party is just beginning rather than just ending.

For the past month I have believed this season can be one big Bears celebration. The defense appears to be that special, and the offense can be if it reaches its potential.

The time has arrived for the Bears to start translating that theory into reality.

The Bears' record is 7-1, but throughout the first half of the season the upcoming schedule was a nagging distraction.

The patsy toss is past tense. It'll be awhile before the Bears play a team as limited as the Titans, Panthers and Jaguars recently were.

The Packers, championship contenders, crushed the Bears in Week 2. Now the Texans and 49ers are waiting the next two weeks.

The Bears' offense played mostly in spurts against lesser opponents, so can Jay Cutler get it going consistently against the likes of Houston and San Francisco?

"We have to put together a four-quarter game sometime," the Bears quarterback said.

Can cornerback Charles Tillman keep forcing fumbles and the back seven keep returning interceptions for touchdowns?

"The defense was in a frenzy taking the ball away," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said in Nashville.

Again, though, this was 3-6 Tennessee, not 7-1 Houston or 6-2 San Francisco.

The Bears' latest victory essentially was secure when they led 28-2 at the end of the first quarter despite some highly unusual statistics.

The Bears had 4 touchdowns despite only 3 first downs, 12 plays from scrimmage, 54 yards and 5.5 minutes of possession time.

Corey Wootton scored a touchdown off a blocked punt Devin Hester's punt return set up another Brian Urlacher scored another with an interception one of Tillman's forced fumbles set up another.

In the first half the Bears' defense and special teams hummed the tune and in the second half the offense danced to the music.

Nicely done, Bears now let the real games begin.

"It's going to be tough," Forte said of playing the Texans and 49ers, "but we have to keep taking steps forward."

The Bears will attempt to in front of America, with next week's game in Soldier Field on "Sunday Night Football" and the game the week after at San Francisco on "Monday Night Football."

No NFL team has proved itself yet, so the Texans and 49ers also will be trying to prove something against a formidable opponent.

Yes, against the Bears.

The real fun is just starting on the regular-season road toward determining who will have a chance to enjoy the last laugh in the playoffs.

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