CHICAGO -- Despite suffering another key injury this week when defensive end and NFC Defensive Player of the Week Shea McClelln tweaked his hamstring at practice, the Chicago Bears' defense managed to put forth a respectable effort in Sunday’s 21-19 loss to the Detroit Lions.
In the first meeting back in September, the Lions finished with 40 points (one touchdown was credited to the Detroit defense on a fumble return), 387 total net yards and held the ball for 31:49. On Sunday, Detroit managed to compile 21 points, 364 total net yards, and actually lost the time of possession battle to the Bears (31:35 to 28:25).
“We just got back to the fundamentals,” Bears safety Chris Conte said. “We knew we didn’t play well the last time we came out and played against them. We just wanted to improve on that today, and I thought we had a good game plan and good energy on defense today.
“It always hurts to lose, but I think there are things we can take out of this game that are encouraging, and we can see that we can be a really good team. We have a lot of young guys and they are improving and getting better each week. I think you can tell we are starting to come together a little bit on defense.”
Conte, in particular, enjoyed more success versus the Lions than he had in recent weeks. Although Conte did commit at least one obvious mistake in the third quarterback when he took a poor angle and whiffed on Lions running back Reggie Bush in the open field on a play that gained 39 yards, the safety bounced back with a key interception in the fourth quarter.
With the Bears trailing 14-10, Conte picked off an errant Matthew Stafford pass and returned it 35 yards to the Lions' 9-yard line. The Bears eventually settled for a field goal to cut the Detroit lead to one point.
“We were just playing Cover-2 and I was just reading the quarterback,” Conte said. “He put the ball up and I just went up and got it. But I needed to score on that. So I need to help out the offense and score there.”
In addition to the interception, Conte finished the game with three tackles and three passes defensed.
“(Conte) has been in the tank for a little bit,” Bears safety Major Wright said. “With me, I’m trying to motivate him and help him get back together. For me, he came out and had a great game for us, and that is what he needed.”
However, the game ended on a low note for the defense when Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson caught what turned out to be a game-winning 14 yard touchdown pass with 2:22 left on the clock. Johnson beat veteran cornerback Charles Tillman, who appeared to be in man coverage, in the back corner of the endzone for the score. Johnson did end the game with a pair of touchdowns, but he caught just six passes for 83 yards on 17 targets.
“It’s pretty tough (to defend Johnson one-on-one) when you look at his size, look at his speed,” Wright said. “He’s pretty good at catching the ball. You really can’t ask for much more with how this defense played him, not just one guy but all of us.”