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Bears set to battle Texans under the lights

The Bears will look to win their seventh straight game and extend their lead atop the NFC North Sunday night when they host the Houston Texans in a clash of 7-1 teams at Soldier Field.

Chicago is a game and a half ahead of the Packers, who have their bye this weekend. The Bears have the second best record in the NFC behind the Falcons (8-0), who visit New Orleans Sunday.


Charles Tillman battles Texans receiver Andre Johnson for the ball in a 2008 game in Houston.
Jay Cutler is 12-1 in his last 13 starts dating back to Week 7 of last season, a winning percentage of .923 that's the best by an NFL quarterback during that time. Cutler has passed for 1,774 yards with 12 touchdowns, eight interceptions and an 85.3 rating this season.

After a slow start last Sunday in Tennessee, the Bears offense produced four touchdowns in a 51-20 rout of the Titans, its best output since a five-TD performance in a Week 1 win over the Colts.

In throwing for 229 yards and three touchdowns, Cutler posted a 138.1 passer rating that was the fourth best of his seven-year NFL career. Brandon Marshall caught nine passes for 122 yards and a career-high three TDs, and Matt Forte rushed for 103 yards and 1 TD on 12 carries.

With 59 receptions for 797 yards and seven touchdowns through eight games, Marshall is on pace to set franchise records and establish career highs with 118 catches, 1,594 yards and 14 TDs. At the midway point of the season, Marshall has already topped the Bears' leaders in all receiving categories last year: Forte (52 catches), Johnny Knox (727 yards) and Kellen Davis (5 TDs).

The Bears will face a Texans defense that ranks second behind the Chicago defense in the Aikman Ratings, which combines seven key statistical categories. Houston is led by defensive end J.J. Watt, who tops the NFL with 10.5 sacks and has broken up 10 passes, three of which have resulted in interceptions by teammates.

The Texans defense has not allowed a rushing touchdown all season.

"They don't play soft," said Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice. "They remind me of some of the really good Pittsburgh Steelers defenses that we played against over the years, meaning that they play on the other side of the line of scrimmage. They're very good."

The same could be said for the Bears defense, which has fueled the team's six-game winning streak by returning a franchise-record seven interceptions for touchdowns while allowing opponents to score only six TDs during that span.

The Bears lead the NFL in takeaways (28), turnover margin (plus-16) and point differential (plus-116), rank third in points scored per game (29.5) and are second in points allowed per game (15.0).

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is the reigning NFC defensive player of the week after returning an interception 46 yards for a touchdown and also forcing a fumble and recovering another in last Sunday's demolition of the Titans.

Cornerback Charles Tillman forced a career-high four fumbles in that game, increasing his season total to seven and giving him 36 forced fumbles in his career, the most among NFL defensive backs since he entered the league in 2003.

The Bears will face a big challenge Sunday night against Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Arian Foster and receiver Andre Johnson. Schaub has passed for 1,918 yards with 12 TDs, four interceptions and a 96.8 passer rating that ranks seventh in the NFL.

"He's a heck of a quarterback and it all works together with that run game," said Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. "They sell that run, and they come out and boot and play-action and he manages that stuff extremely well. That is a heck of an offense."

Foster is fifth in the league in rushing with 770 yards and 10 TDs on an NFL-high 192 carries. He figures to carry the majority of the workload against the Bears because backup Ben Tate will miss Sunday night's game with a hamstring injury.

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