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Leinart faces Bears on Monday night stage

Oct 11, 2006 - 2:10 AM Chicago (5-0) at Arizona (1-4) Monday 8:30 pm EDT

GLENDALE, Arizona (Ticker) -- Rookie Matt Leinart will make his first appearance on the Monday night stage. He probably wishes it wasn't against the Chicago Bears.

Leinart, the winner of 37 of 39 games and two national championships at Southern California, will try to help the Cardinals snap a four-game losing streak.

The unbeaten Bears seek to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1986 under Mike Ditka.

The 2004 Heisman Trophy winner, Leinart made quite an impression in his first NFL start, passing for 253 yards and two touchdowns with an interception in a 23-20 loss to Kansas City last week. He drove the Cardinals from their own 9 to the Kansas City 33 in the two minutes, but Neil Rackers missed a potential game-tying 51-yard field goal with two seconds left.

However, Leinart was sacked four times by Kansas City. He should expect even more pressure from the Bears, who have allowed a league-low 7.2 points per game.

"Matt's an extraordinary player," Cardinals coach Dennis Green. "You can make a case for him being the most successful college quarterback ever. We're very confident in him."

But Leinart will not have Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who will be sidelined for at least two weeks with an injured right hamstring.

Fitzgerald caught 25 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns this season. He set a franchise record with 103 catches for 1,409 yards in 2005.

The injury to Fitzgerald elevates third receiver Bryant Johnson to a starting role alongside Anquan Boldin. Johnson, a first-round pick in 2003, caught six passes for 82 yards in the loss to Kansas City. He has 10 receptions for 227 yards this season. Troy Walters, the team's kick returner, will serve as the third receiver in three-receiver sets.

The Cardinals will need more production from two-time rushing champion Edgerrin James, who is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry. But Chicago held Willis McGahee, the AFC's leading rusher, to just 50 yards last week in a 40-7 victory over Buffalo.

The Bears are clicking on all cylinders. Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs and tackle Tommie Harris lead the defense, Rex Grossman has a passer rating of 100.8, Robbie Gould has converted all 17 of his field-goal attempts and rookie Devin Hester is a big-play punt returner.

Last season, the Bears won the NFC North with an 11-5 record despite having the league's second-worst passing attack. That has changed this season with Grossman finally healthy after three injury-plagued campaigns. He has completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,243 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions.

Bernard Berrian, a third-year player from Fresno State, has emerged as more than just an effective complement to receiver Muhsin Muhammad. Berrian leads the NFC with 413 receiving yards on 19 catches.

And now the Bears' running game is starting to roll. Last week, Thomas Jones rushed for 109 yards and Cedric Benson bulled in for a pair of touchdowns in the rout of Buffalo.

The Bears won the last meeting, 28-3, in November 2003 at Soldier Field.

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