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CHICAGO GOES FOR BEAR AGAINST PACK, COMES UP SHORT

CHICAGO -- The Green Bay Packers don't care that they were 11-point favorites over the winless Chicago Bears.

And it didn't matter to the defending Super Bowl champions that they needed Chicago's unsuccessful two-point conversion with 1:54 to go to hang on for a 24-23 victory Sunday.

"Everyone expects the defending champs to blow everyone out every week. Well, that's not going to happen," Packers receiver Antonio Freeman said. "We're satisfied where we are."

Brett Favre survived an early interception to throw three touchdown passes and help the Packers (5-2) pull into a tie with Tampa Bay atop the NFC Central.

"I told the guys the same thing I have told them all season -- enjoy the win," said coach Mike Holmgren, whose Packers haven't beaten the point spread in 1997. "I don't think we have played our best football this season . . . but it is a wonderful win. We are very, very happy."

The Bears (0-7), meanwhile, matched the worst start in their 78-year history and were defeated by their oldest rivals for the eighth straight time. Chicago also lost its first seven games in 1969, when it finished 1-13.

Still, Bears running back Raymont Harris was encouraged by his team's performance.

"I'm really excited because I've seen something in my team that I haven't seen in the previous six weeks," said Harris, who rushed for 101 yards.

The Bears pulled within a point on Erik Kramer's 22-yard touchdown pass to Chris Penn. Rather than go for an extra-point kick, Chicago coach Dave Wannstedt went for the lead. But Kramer's short pass sailed over Harris, who was covered on the play.

Everyone in Chicago's locker room, especially Wannstedt, defended the call.

"It was a no-brainer," Wannstedt said. "We told the team when we got the ball, 'If we go down and score, we're going for the win.' It was a play that our entire team was comfortable with."

Said tight end Keith Jennings: "We had to do it. We're trying to win it. Win it, win it, win it. If we won, you guys (in the media) would be calling Wannstedt a genius."

The Packers expected the decision.

"When you're 0-6, you have to go for it," Freeman said. "That's the game right there -- no time outs, no wins, nothing to lose."

Of course, if the Bears had taken the lead, Favre might have marched the Packers right down the field. Even though he struggled, getting intercepted on his second pass and nearly getting picked off four other times, he's still the NFL's two-time MVP.

"Well, it was a winning performance, so I'll take it," said Favre, who was 19 of 35 for 177 yards. "It's a good time for a bye week."

The Packers can use the time to heal some of their wounded. They lost running back Dorsey Levens (rib), guard Aaron Taylor (knee) and receiver Robert Brooks (head) to injuries. Holmgren said he wasn't sure how badly the three were hurt.

Kramer, who reclaimed the Bears' starting quarterback job from a benched Rick Mirer, was 22 of 35 for 232 yards. The Bears also got a lift from receiver Curtis Conway, who caught five passes for 77 yards after missing the first five games with a broken collarbone.

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