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Bears-Buccaneers matchup of the day: Friday

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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By Dan Parr

Here's a look at a key matchup heading into Sunday's battle between the Bears and Buccaneers.

Bears' run defense vs. Bucs RB Earnest Graham

The Bears put an extra defender in the box last week against the Vikings to try to stop Adrian Peterson, and the strategy was very effective. Peterson was held to 39 yards on 12 carries and QBs Donovan McNabb and Christian Ponder (Ponder replaced McNabb in the fourth quarter) were unable to make big plays in the passing game.

Chicago probably will not take the same approach on defense vs. Tampa Bay, though. The Bucs will be without their top rusher, LeGarrette Blount, who will miss his second consecutive game with a knee injury. The Bucs also will be shuffling pieces on the offensive line. Starting C Jeff Faine, who suffered a strained right biceps against New Orleans, will not play. Jeremy Zuttah will move from left guard to center to fill in for Faine and Ted Larsen will step in at left guard.

Earnest Graham will get his second start in a row on Sunday vs. the Bears, and he showed he can be effective, rushing for 109 yards on 17 carries vs. the Saints, but look for the Bears to play their standard seven in the box. Josh Freeman is a more capable quarterback than the ones the Bears faced last week and Chicago likely will return to a more conservative approach against him.

Graham is a powerful runner. He will shake off tackles if the Bears don't do a good job of wrapping him up, and breakdowns vs. the run were an issue for the Bears prior to their win over the Vikings.

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