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Monday, December 17, 2007

Toeaina hopes to build off successful NFL debut

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – In his first NFL game Monday night in Minnesota, new Bears defensive tackle Matt Toeaina tackled running back Adrian Peterson for losses of 3 and 2 yards.

It wasn’t, however, the first time the two had met in the backfield. The Cincinnati Bengals told Toeaina that they chose him in the sixth round of this year’s draft out of Oregon in part because of a play he made against Peterson when the Vikings star played at Oklahoma.

“What impressed us most in scouting Matt was how athletic he is,” said Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes. “He has good size, but he can run.

“On film, I watched him run step-for-step with Adrian Peterson and make a tackle on a cutback for a negative yardage play. For a guy 300-plus pounds to do that to a Heisman candidate speaks well of him.”

Decimated by injuries at defensive tackle, the Bears signed Toeaina off the Bengals’ practice squad last week. The 6-2, 311-pounder figures to play in Chicago’s final two games against the Packers and Saints, and hopes to parlay his audition into a chance to make the 2008 final roster.

“That’s definitely my mindset,” Toeaina said. “They could have brought me here just to finish off the season because they didn’t have anything. But I’ve got the opportunity to prove that I’m capable of contributing to the team for next season.

“They see something in me and that’s the reason why they brought me in here in the first place. I definitely want to make it so they can’t turn away from me and they feel like they have something to look forward to next year.”

Offense sputtered: The performance by the Bears offense Monday night in Minnesota didn’t look any better a day later when coach Lovie Smith and his staff reviewed tape of the game.

“Offensively, we didn’t get a lot done,” Smith said. “We didn’t get enough production. We had some opportunities, had great field position. We had some plays that we left out on the football field, especially in the passing game, so that’s discouraging.”

In his first start in two years, quarterback Kyle Orton completed 22 of 38 passes for 184 yards with no touchdowns, 1 interception and a 59.5 passer rating. Nearly half of his completed passes went to running backs Adrian Peterson (8 for 51 yards) and Garrett Wolfe (2-10).

“I thought he made a lot of good decisions, as far as checking the ball down,” Smith said. “We didn’t have a lot of turnovers, and in a situation like that you want to play just good steady ball and not lose the game making some bad plays.

“Kyle missed some passes we would like to have back right now, but I thought for the most part he played and we played as an offense as a whole OK, but not good enough to win.”

Second-guessing: Smith was asked whether he agreed with some of the plays called by offensive coordinator Ron Turner, in particularly a decision on fourth-and-1 to have Orton attempt to float a pass to Jason McKie in the left flat. Orton overshot the fullback and the pass fell incomplete.

Bears running back Adrian Peterson is 5-for-5 in converting third-and-1 chances into first downs this season and gained positive yards on eight of his nine rushes in Monday night’s game.

“I think in those situations you need to be able to execute,” Smith said. “Every play that didn’t work you look at and say, ‘Hey, I wish I had done something else.’

“But I think we were in position to make quite a few plays that we didn’t make, and that’s kind of been our season a little bit this year. We’re in this situation because of what the team has done, and part of that is calls and part of that is execution.”

On the sidelines: It doesn’t appear that wide receiver Mike Hass, offensive lineman Josh Beekman or other young untested players will see action in Sunday’s home game against the Green Bay Packers.

“We’re going to play the guys that will help us win this week, period,” Smith said. “No more than that. That’s what we’ve done every week, and that’s what we’re going to do this week.”

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