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updated: 10/2/2011 7:11 PM

Bears feel no need to defend this victory

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  • Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith makes a reception in front of Bears coach Lovie Smith in the first half Sunday.

      Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith makes a reception in front of Bears coach Lovie Smith in the first half Sunday.
    Associated Press

 
 

Nick Roach shook his head in disbelief.

"That's huge," Roach said as he stood in the Bears' locker room Sunday afternoon. "That's big."

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He could have been referring to the Bears' commitment to run the football and Matt Forte's 205 yards on the ground, or simply the Bears' 34-29 victory over Carolina at Soldier Field.

But in reality Roach was talking about the game seen on an iPad sitting just a few feet away, and the ridiculous catch by Calvin Johnson that capped a wild comeback by Detroit in Dallas, where a 17-point fourth quarter moved the Lions to 4-0.

That's the Bears' next stop, next Monday night in Detroit, against a Lions team averaging 34 points and 376 yards on offense.

They will face a Bears defense that over three games has allowed an average of 29 points and 439 yards, after giving up 543 yards Sunday to rookie Cam Newton and the Panthers.

"We're in a bit of a funk right now," said Julius Peppers, who's more rumor than wrecker these days. "I don't have an answer. We'll have to look at the tape and see."

On tape the Lions will see a Bears defense that can be gashed inside and taken over the top, and on tape the Bears will see a Lions offense on fire.

They'll be reminded of Johnson and his TD catch that wasn't a year ago in Week 1, and the Lions will undoubtedly see a Bears team featuring little pass rush and a secondary that's leaky on its best day.

The Lions will remind their offensive line that Peppers crushed QB Matthew Stafford with a blindside hit in the first half of the first game a year ago, derailing their season before it could even begin.

And perhaps Peppers will remember that last year he was a difference-maker worth every penny of his huge salary. This year he looks like the player the Panthers said used to coast through games and even seasons.

"Overall," Peppers said, "every one of us has to execute better."

Sunday, the offense and special teams carried the day, but not every team will be dumb enough to kick the ball to Devin Hester and not every team is likely to give up career days to Bears running backs.

No, the Bears will have to find their defensive stride or this could get ugly.

"It's individual battles and fundamentals, and all of us doing our jobs," said defensive tackle Matt Toeaina. "It's the little things. The details are usually the difference between a win and a loss."

It may have felt to Toeaina like the Bears lost because the defense struggled so mightily Sunday, but the Bears did win the game and are 2-2 after a quarter of the season, right where most people expected them to be.

"We're not apologizing at all about this win," said head optimist Lovie Smith, who hadn't been asked to fess up when he volunteered that dose of arrogance. "We feel really good about it."

Well, he should. The Bears stole a game Sunday almost entirely because the Panthers kicked to Hester more than once and twice he made them pay, and they were fortunate that a very talented rookie quarterback made nearly as many mistakes as he made good plays -- and he made a lot of good plays.

The Bears also ran the football exceptionally well, with full credit to Smith for getting his hands around the throat of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and forcing him to give Jay Cutler the week off from his usual beating.

While the Panthers ran 72 plays to only 49 for the Bears, it helped that the Bears blocked a field goal, returned a deflected pass for a TD and got an official's gift that robbed Carolina of a Jeremy Shockey touchdown.

"I asked for an explanation several times, but I didn't get (bleep) from the officials," Shockey said of Charles Tillman falling down on the play. "I'd like to get an explanation from the league. I'd like a review of that one."

It was one of many plays that cost Carolina.

"That's part of the game," said Panthers coach Ron Rivera. "Those calls go both ways."

And on this day, they went the Bears' way.

"We won, I guess," said a less than enthusiastic D.J. Moore, who returned a pick for a touchdown. "If we did great and lost, that would be bad. We won, so that's good."

As solid a diagnosis as there is in the NFL, where, by the way, winning means never having to say you're sorry.

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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