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Bears will be challenged by Bucs' rush

Protecting quarterback Jay Cutler will be a top priority Sunday when the Bears host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field.

"The greatest challenge against Tampa is the pass protection again," said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. "They do a very good job of rotating eight players on the defensive line so they stay fresh and they're ready for third down to get a good pass rush."

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Jay Cutler passed for 330 yards and three touchdowns in last Sunday's win over the Vikings.
The Buccaneers defense is anchored by 6-4, 300-pound tackle Gerald McCoy. The fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft ranks second in the NFL among defensive tackles with 6.5 sacks.

"McCoy leads that rush with his athleticism and size, but they have a group of eight guys that get to the quarterback," Kromer said. "So we have to do a good job with the timing of our passes and their routes and making sure it all ties together."

McCoy, who is playing the same role in coach Lovie Smith's defense that Tommie Harris filled with the Bears, is a disruptive force who also excels against the run.

"He's a penetrator in the run game; he's a penetrator in the pass game," said coach Marc Trestman. "He gets on an edge. He's got as quick a get-off as anybody in the league. They've got good players around him, but certainly he's the focal point.

"He's a force, a relentless player; exactly what the defense needs in terms of getting started with their pass rush. He's a legitimate player, no doubt about it; a very good player."

Line changes: The Bears hope to repeat their performance from last Sunday when they did not give up a sack for the first time this season in a 21-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

They accomplished that feat despite starting a different offensive line combination for the sixth straight game, with Brian de la Puente opening at left guard and Michael Ola at right tackle.

"It's definitely a challenge when you change the offensive line," Kromer said. "But we make a big deal of not making it an excuse. It's a challenge. It's the same skill no matter what position you're playing on the offensive line. We do the same things over and over, so we feel like it should be interchangeable. But when you're working with guys, you want to get a feel for the guy next to you.

"It's been a big challenge all year, but we feel like the guys for the most part have handled it well and hopefully we won't have to make a bunch of changes as it keeps going."

On the move: Moving Cutler via designed rollouts was a key factor in last Sunday's win over the Vikings and something that the quarterback hopes will remain in the game plan.

"It was great," Cutler said. "We've got to keep doing it. We've got to keep doing it in different ways, showing different looks; get off the spot as much as we possibly can because it helps with everything. It helps the pass rush, get some easy balls out to the flat, out on the outside lets the guys run. It's got to be something in our offense that we do more of."

Health update: Defensive end Jared Allen (not injury related), cornerback Demontre Hurst (knee), defensive end Trevor Scott (knee), linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hamstring) and receiver Chris Williams (hamstring) did not practice Thursday.

Receivers Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and Brandon Marshall (ankle), tackle Jordan Mills (ribs) and guard/tackle Eben Britton (illness) were limited.

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