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Bears' Spaeth draws praise

LAKE FOREST – For much of his six-year career, Matt Spaeth has hidden in plain sight.

The Bears’ blocking tight end came out of anonymity for at least a few minutes Wednesday as quarterback Jay Cutler praised him for his role on the team. Spaeth was on the field for 60 percent of the offense’s snaps Monday against Dallas, and he helped J’Marcus Webb in pass protection while also filling in for injured teammate Evan Rodriguez as a run blocker.

“He’s a wild card in our offense,” Cutler said. “He moves around a lot. We ask him to do a lot of different roles in the passing game and the running game.

“[He] doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Week-in and week-out he’s a guy you can count on, no matter what we ask him to do.”

Spaeth said he appreciated the compliments, but he was fine without being in the headlines.

“To be honest with you, I don’t really care if I don’t get the credit,” Spaeth said. “I want to be out there, I want to play football. My thing has been, since I’ve been here, I’ll do whatever they ask me to do."

Spaeth also can be effective as a receiver, although that is not his primary responsibility. He has caught 44 passes for 329 yards and seven touchdowns in six seasons, which included 60 games with the Pittsburgh Steelers and 19 games (and counting) with the Bears.

Something to prove: Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea was not happy with himself after breaking down video of Monday’s win against the Cowboys.

“After watching film, it was my worst performance of the season,” Paea said.

Paea finished the game with one tackle, in which he stuffed Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray for a 1-yard loss in the second quarter. Making one play was not enough, he said.

“I thought I didn't pass rush very well,” Paea said. “I know I can contribute more than I did in that game. But our linebackers, corners, safeties, they did all the work and saved me that day.”

Upside down: Few – OK, zero – NFL observers expected the Minnesota Vikings to contend with the Bears, Green Bay Packers or Detroit Lions for the NFC North title.

Yet after 25 percent of the season, the Vikings (3-1) are tied with the Bears for first place.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said nothing surprised him in the NFL.

“Our division is a tough division,” Smith said. “After a quarter, all I see is four good football teams battling hard and everybody has a chance.”

Bears bits: The Bears had meetings but did not practice Wednesday as part of a short week to prepare for the Jaguars. If they had practiced, Smith said, Rodriguez (knee) would not have been able to participate.

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