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updated: 12/17/2013 12:26 AM

Bears know there's still room for improvement

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  • Browns safety T.J. Ward recovers a fumble by Bears tight end Martellus Bennett before returning the ball 51 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter Sunday. Bears coach Marc Trestman said his team must turnovers and penalties, if not addressed, could cost his team a spot in the playoffs.

      Browns safety T.J. Ward recovers a fumble by Bears tight end Martellus Bennett before returning the ball 51 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter Sunday. Bears coach Marc Trestman said his team must turnovers and penalties, if not addressed, could cost his team a spot in the playoffs.
    Associated Press

  • Video: Trestman on his quarterback

 
 

No one knows better than Bears coach Marc Trestman that defeating a 4-10 Cleveland Browns team does not qualify the victors for a coronation.

Not even former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green would be ready to crown the 2013 Bears yet.

Sunday's 38-31 victory was enough to keep Trestman's 8-6 team in contention for the NFC North title and a trip to the playoffs, but it will take more for the first-place Bears to hold off the Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) and the Detroit Lions (7-7) over the final two weeks.

Green Bay stayed a half-game behind the Bears with a miracle finish in Dallas to stun the Cowboys. So it's possible the division title could be decided on the final day of the season when the Packers face the Bears at Soldier Field.

Trestman knows that his team will have to clean up some deficiencies if it hopes to remain relevant in the playoff chase. He told them so late Sunday afternoon -- after congratulating them on the win.

"I told them (that) to win the North over the next couple weeks, that we had to do better," Trestman said. "That really was related to the turnovers, and maybe even more importantly, the penalties.

"There were some significant penalties in the game."

The Bears only lost 40 yards in penalties, but their 7 infractions helped short-circuit the offense early and provided another obstacle in addition to quarterback Jay Cutler having to knock off the rust from inactivity before he got his groove back.

A false start by tight end Martellus Bennett helped create a three-and-out early in the second quarter. But it was the Bears' next possession that demonstrated a classic example of a team shooting itself in the foot, over and over.

With a fourth-and-1 from the Browns' 24, the Bears were going for it until Alshon Jeffery's false start made it fourth-and-6.

Still, it looked as if the Bears would salvage something when they opted for the field-goal attempt and Robbie Gould's 46-yarder split the uprights. But that was nullified by a holding call on Corey Wootton, resulting in a punt.

"We really took points off the board two ways," Trestman said. "No. 1, we didn't get a shot at the fourth-and-very short, and No. 2, in our field-goal protection, we (were called for holding), and that cost us points as well. You can't do that and expect to win week to week."

Cutler's first-quarter interception in the red zone cost the Bears points, and his second-quarter pick was brought back for a TD. Martellus Bennett's third-quarter fumble also was returned for a touchdown. Both turnovers left the Bears trailing by 7, but they regrouped.

That ability to overcome adversity could be as valuable down the homestretch as avoiding the pre-snap penalties Trestman despises.

"We know that we're going to have success during the course of a game," the Bears' coach said. "But we also know there's an inevitability of adversity. I thought our guys did a great job (Sunday) of managing adversity overall.

"There was a lot of it. A lot of it was self-inflicted that we had to overcome, and I thought they did a great job of managing it and, as we talk about, just moving on to the next play."

And now, moving on to the next game, which is Sunday night on national TV against the 8-6 Eagles at Philadelphia.

•Follow Bob's NFL and Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.

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