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Cowboys-Bears Preview

By NOEY KUPCHAN

STATS Writer

(AP) -- While Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys have generally struggled in December, they're hoping to see their recent efforts carry over into the regular-season's final month.

The Chicago Bears, meanwhile, are headed in the opposite direction.

Looking to continue their quest for the NFC East crown, the visiting Cowboys go for a season-high third straight win Monday night against the slumping Bears, who will be without Jay Cutler yet again.

After pulling out a 24-21 road win over the New York Giants on Dan Bailey's last-second field goal in Week 12, Dallas (7-5) stormed back to beat Oakland 31-24 on Thanksgiving Day. DeMarco Murray ran for a career-high three touchdowns as the Cowboys erased a 21-7 deficit.

"I don't know how you can get any better practice with a lot on the line than to have a game like that," owner Jerry Jones said. "I think that's something our team can build on that's what you hope to have happen with three or four positive endings to maybe get ready to have a big year."

Dallas, which has won five of seven, remains neck-and-neck with Philadelphia for first place in the division. While Jones is hoping to see his team stay hot down the stretch, the Cowboys have compiled a 13-17 record in December since Romo took over as the starting quarterback in 2006.

Romo, who missed more than half of 2010 due to injury, is 11-15.

"We've always known that what they remember is what you do in December," Jones told the team's official website. "We need to change that. That was our goal this year. And we've got a chance to do something about it this year."

Coach Jason Garrett isn't putting too much stock into those past results.

"You hear me say this all the time, but we're focused on winning one game," Garrett said. "We want to play one good ballgame. That's really what we're focused on. We'll let everyone else figure out what the history of the world is."

It's been a rough couple weeks for the Bears (6-6), who were blown out 42-21 at St. Louis on Nov. 24 before suffering a wild 23-20 overtime defeat at Minnesota last Sunday. Chicago had a chance to win with just over four minutes left in OT but Robbie Gould missed a 47-yard field goal on second down.

While running another play or two may have put the Bears in better position, coach Marc Trestman doesn't regret his decision.

"I didn't do it from an analytics standpoint. I did it from having been around Robbie the entire year and knowing how he kicks the ball," Trestman said of Gould, whose field goal percentage of 85.8 ranks third-highest in NFL history dating to 1938.

Despite dropping six of nine, the Bears are just one game behind first-place Detroit in the North.

"We've got to put up a win in the win column," backup quarterback Josh McCown said. "The standings don't matter if you don't win football games."

Cutler has missed the last three games with a high left ankle sprain and was ruled out again despite practicing on a limited basis Thursday. McCown has played well in his absence, however, throwing for 923 yards, five touchdowns and one interception for a 103.8 quarterback rating in his last three games.

McCown had 355 yards against the Vikings, finding Alshon Jeffery 12 times for a team-record 249 yards and two scores. The Bears' passing game could be in for another big performance against the Cowboys, who are surrendering an average of 294.9 yards through the air to rank 31st in the NFL.

"There's a whole lot of football to be played. We show signs of having enough to finish, of playing offensively well enough to finish, of doing things we need to get done," Trestman told the Bears' official website. "But we haven't done it on a consistent basis over the last month. We've got to start on Monday night and do that. That was the message: Let's worry about what we can control and that's being at our best on Monday night against the Cowboys."

Dallas could get a boost with linebacker Sean Lee (pulled hamstring) expected to return following a two-game absence. Bears linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder), though, remains out.

Chicago is seeking a third consecutive victory over the Cowboys after winning 34-18 in Dallas on a Monday last October. Cutler threw for 275 yards and two TDs while Romo was picked off a career high-tying five times.

Chicago is among the league leaders with 15 interceptions, but its run defense has been abysmal. The Bears are allowing an average of 205.2 rushing yards and 5.9 yards per carry in the last six games.

Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, who was signed Nov. 6, could be out for revenge against his former team. Ratliff was cut in October after spending the first eight years of his career with Dallas.

Updated December 5, 2013

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