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Since getting a stranglehold on the NFC Central in 1984, the Bears have won the division in all but one season. Each year, though, some new hoss is supposed to rise up and knock them off. "One year it's Minnesota, one year it's Green Bay," says Chicago cornerback Lemuel Stinson. "This year it's Detroit. It's always somebody. But we're not ready to go down."
Who would have thought the Bears could dominate the division this season without rock-solid tackle Jimbo Covert, who is sidelined for the year with a ruptured disk; without big days from running back Neal Anderson, who is gaining only 62 yards a game; and without consistent pressure from defensive end Richard Dent, who has only 5½ sacks.
On Sunday, in a 20-10 victory over the Lions, Chicago held Barry Sanders to fewer than 70 yards on the ground for the third straight time by using a seven-man scheme that was packed in near the line of scrimmage. He had 63 yards on 18 carries. "They're good at what they do," said Detroit linebacker Chris Spielman after his team fell to 6-3, a game behind the Bears in the NFC Central, "and they've been doing it for years."
Stats of the Week
•Last year the 49ers were 8-1 in regular-season games decided by a touchdown or less. After losing to the Falcons 17-14 on a Hail Mary pass, San Francisco is 0-5 in such games this season.
•Since last Thanksgiving, the Packers are 3-0 against Tampa Bay and 0-12 against the rest of the league, including Sunday's 19-16 overtime loss to the Jets.
•Saints linebacker Pat Swilling has more sacks (11½) than three teams (the Bengals, the Cowboys and the Rams) do.
The Long Wait
The case of Terry Long, the Steeler guard who attempted suicide on July 24 after telling teammates he had flunked his steroid test, still has not been resolved by the league. Long returned to the team on Aug. 20 and played in six regular-season games before going on injured reserve with a torn triceps on Oct. 18.
One Steeler source says that the test turned up excessive levels of testosterone. The source also says that Long and his attorney, George Saunders, have argued in an appeal hearing before commissioner Paul Tagliabue that Long's natural testosterone level is unusually high and that the NFL's testosterone ratio to determine steroid use was arbitrary.