The Bears' defense has received plenty of criticism this season -- and rightfully so -- but there were some signs of improvement in Sunday's 21-19 loss to the Lions at Soldier Field.
For the first half, the Lions' elusive Reggie Bush was held in check, gaining just 16 yards on 5 carries and catching 2 passes for 5 yards.
But, on the third play of the second half, Bush got to the second level and left free safety Chris Conte grasping air en route to a 39-yard scamper to the Bears' 8-yard line. That play brought back bad memories of the first Bears-Lions game in Week 4 -- a 40-32 Detroit victory that featured 139 rushing yards by Bush and way too many missed tackles by Conte and the defense.
"I was like, 'Oh man, not again,'" Conte said. "It's been kind of a confidence killer for me, missing tackles. When that happened, my coaches did a good job of not letting me go in the tank, and I knew I had to come back and make a play and make it up to my team. So that's what I tried to do."
Conte had earlier knocked down a Matthew Stafford pass near the line of scrimmage on a critical fourth-and-1 play at the Bears 31-yard line, but he was just getting warmed up.
Early in the fourth quarter, he grabbed his second interception of the season. Conte stole an overthrown Stafford pass at the Lions' 44-yard line and brought it back 35 yards to give the offense exceptional field position at the Lions' 9-yard line.
But the Bears settled for a field goal that brought them within 14-13. An apparent Matt Forte TD run on the first play after Conte's pick was nullified by a holding call on Matt Slauson. Three plays later, a 14-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery was called a touchdown on the field but overturned on review.
"I needed to score on that," Conte said. "I need to help out the offense."
Conte's big day still wasn't done. On the Lions' next possession, he arrived at the last instant to break up a pass in the end zone that looked like it would be a 27-yard TD to all-pro Calvin Johnson with 6:33 left. When David Akers was wide right on a 45-yard field-goal attempt on the next play, the Bears were still within a point.
But Johnson's second TD catch on the next possession gave the Lions just enough cushion for the victory. Although Johnson was targeted 17 times, he had 6 receptions, and his 83 yards were 20 under his average.
"We tried to get some help on Calvin during the course of the game but just didn't get it done," said Bears coach Marc Trestman,
The Bears' pass rush never got to Stafford once, and Bush finished with 105 yards on 14 carries (7.5-yard average).
Still, the Bears allowed 364 yards, 17 less than their average yield, and 23 less than in the first Lions game. The defense had allowed an average of 28.3 points in the first eight games and it contained a Lions offense that rolled up 623 yards on the Cowboys in its last game.