Bears not worried about mile-high altitude

Brian Urlacher said altitude problems usually only noticeable early in games. Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The altitude in Denver -- 5,280 feet -- might cause a little huffing and puffing initially for the Chicago Bears on Sunday when they face the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

But that's about it, they say.

With its playoff hopes on the line, Chicago won't resort to using the thin-air, lower-oxygen-levels excuse to explain away a sub par performance Sunday against the Broncos.

"Denver is a tough place to play," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "[Because of] the elevation, we're going to be breathing hard the first couple of quarters. What I've noticed in playing there is at the very beginning of the game, it gets you a little bit, and you kind of adjust as the game goes on. We should be O.K."

Recent history indicates as much. Dating back to 1990, the Bears have won two of their last three meetings against the Broncos in Denver, including a 19-10 decision in 2003 in which Urlacher posted 13 tackles.

Bears coach Lovie Smith didn't want to even get into whether altitude would factor into his team's conditioning late in Sunday's game against a Broncos team that wears out opponents with the rushing attack.

"What altitude?" Smith asked. "It's no factor for us. Conditioning isn't a big thing with us. [We're in] great shape, ready to go. That won't be a factor."

The Bears don't plan to let it develop into an issue. By forcing Denver into as many three-and-out possessions as possible, Chicago's defense can conserve energy, Urlacher said, before adding that "conditioning is never an issue, especially this late in the season."

The Bears have forced 17 takeaways over their last six games, and are second in the NFL in both rushing defense and opponent passer rating since Week 6. Since Oct. 23, the Bears are allowing 74.3 yards per game on the ground, while limiting quarterbacks to a passer rating of 65.6.

"It doesn't matter what happens on offense [for the Bears]," Urlacher said. "We've got to get ourselves off the field; get some takeaways, three and outs, all that good stuff. We'll get off the field."