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The Chicago Bears had some success stopping one of the NFL’s top running backs in their season opener. They’ll try to stop another Sunday without two important defensive players when they host the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field.
Chicago (0-1) lost 14-3 at San Diego in last Sunday’s season opener and also lost two key starters - safety Mike Brown and defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek - as each suffered a ruptured ACL and will miss the rest of the season.
Danieal Manning - who started 14 games as a rookie last season - will replace Brown, who had an interception and recovered a fumble last week before suffering his third season-ending injury in four years. Veteran Darwin Walker, who was acquired in a trade with Buffalo, will replace Dvoracek.
Although the Bears limited San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson to 25 yards on 17 carries, without key defensive pieces it could be tougher against Kansas City Pro-Bowler Larry Johnson on Sunday.
“The first game you set the bar and you start working from there, and that’s where we are,” Bears coach Lovie Smith told the team’s official Web site. “I know we’re a good football team, but now we have to just get ready for Kansas City.”
Chicago’s vaunted defense played well for the most part versus the Chargers, allowing just 263 total yards while recording three sacks and forcing two turnovers. Its offense, though, picked up where it left off in losing the Super Bowl to Indianapolis in February.
The Bears tallied their fewest points since a 22-3 loss at Jacksonville on Dec. 12, 2004, and committed four turnovers. Quarterback Rex Grossman was 12-for-23 for 145 yards with an interception, and was sacked three times.
“When we’re playing at our best, those mistakes don’t happen,” Grossman said.
Johnson rushed 10 times for 43 yards and caught seven passes for 44 after holding out for most of the preseason, but the Kansas City (0-1) offense struggled as a whole last week in a 20-3 loss at Houston.
Kansas City scored its fewest points since a 14-3 loss at Buffalo on Nov. 13, 2005. The Chiefs amassed just 219 total yards and fumbled twice.
“We’re going on the road against a pretty good defense that doesn’t give up a lot of points. It could be ugly,” said Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, whose team also managed only two offensive touchdowns in preseason. “But we have to play defense and when we have an opportunity to score we’ve got to score. We will. We’ll get going.”
Johnson, who rushed for 3,539 yards over the past two seasons, was a rookie reserve in the most recent meeting between these teams - a 31-13 Chiefs victory at Kansas City on Dec. 28, 2003.
He has fared well against NFC opponents during his career, though, averaging 129.0 yards over six games.
Johnson could need to carry more of the load if quarterback Damon Huard struggles again. Huard, who beat out Brodie Croyle for the starting job in training camp, threw for just 168 yards last week while getting intercepted twice and sacked three times.
Huard and the Chiefs will likely be without starting receiver Eddie Kennison, who injured his hamstring in the first quarter versus Houston.
Kansas City, though, will have a new kicker Sunday after signing Dave Rayner to replace Justin Medlock, who missed a 30-yard field goal in the loss to the Texans. Rayner was 26-for-36 on field goals for Green Bay in 2006, but the Packers released him during the preseason.
“He’s solid. He kicks off well and he’s played in weather conditions,” Edwards said. “Maybe that’s what it takes.”
Kansas City lost its last trip to Soldier Field, 20-17 on Sept. 12, 1999. The Chiefs are 4-5 all-time versus Chicago.
The Bears are trying to win their third consecutive home opener.