Bears Hunker Down on D in Motor City

DE Israel Idonije (Carlos Osorio/AP)

The Chicago Bears were bad on defense in the first half Sunday, but Lovie Smith got his point across at intermission and then had one of the better units in the league playing like it in the second half.

Coach Lovie Smith didn't have to say much at halftime because the Bears' defense knew how poorly it had played in the first half against the Lions.

The result was a 17-14 lead for the Lions, punctuated by a putrid performance by a Bears defense that came in No. 2 in the NFL in points allowed per game and No. 4 in yards allowed but was gashed for 253 yards in the first half.

Not exactly what you'd expect from a team that has been talking playoffs but has a tough homestretch. It starts with this week's game against the Patriots followed by a rematch with the resurgent Vikings, then a home game against the Jets and a season finale in Green Bay that could determine the NFC North champion and/or a wild-card berth.

In the second half it was a different story, as the Bears rallied in the fourth quarter for the third time this season to escape Ford Field with a 24-20 victory that lifted them to 9-3 and maintained their one-game lead over the Packers in the NFC North.

"Of course he was pissed," defensive end Israel Idonije said of Smith. "He's a defensive guy. Did he raise his voice a little bit? Of course. He wasn't happy. He knows how good we are, so to see us play down to that level, it had him fired up."

The Lions' two-play, 91-yard drive near the end of the first half demonstrated how poorly the Bears' defense played in the first 30 minutes.

Jahvid Best's 45-yard run was the longest of the year allowed by the Bears, and Calvin Johnson's 46-yard touchdown catch and run was the second longest against Chicago. Not what was expected from a unit that has carried the team while the offense, and especially the offensive line, tries to jell.

"Upset? Yeah, you could say that," Smith said. "We weren't happy about what was happening. It's hard to stomach missed tackles on critical plays, letting a team go over 90 yards in two plays."

Brian Urlacher played one of his better games in recent memory with a game-high 17 tackles, more than twice as many as anyone else, according to the press box statistics.

"We played better in the second half," Urlacher said. "We just didn't tackle the first half, we didn't read our keys and we didn't make plays. The second half, we did what we do. We got after the quarterback, we stopped the run and we got to the football."

The defense looked like a playoff-caliber unit in the second half. It allowed the Lions just 49 yards on 23 plays after halftime, including 24 rushing yards on 11 attempts. Stanton completed 7 of 10 second-half passes but for just 34 yards, and he was sacked twice for minus-10 yards.

WR Earl Bennett
Paul Sancya/AP

Earl Bennett started the year as a game-day inactive, but he's quickly becoming one of QB Jay Cutler's most trusted weapons. Bennett had the first 100-yard receiving day of his three-year career Sunday, catching seven passes for 104 yards.

For the second straight game, Cutler was sacked four times. But also for the second straight week he put together outstanding numbers, completing 21 of 26 passes for 234 yards and a 117.0 passer rating. Additionally, it was the fifth consecutive game in which the Bears' QB scrambled away from pressure to pick up key yardage at crucial times.

WR Devin Hester, who came in leading the NFL in punt-return average, picked up 37 yards on two returns for an 18.5-yard average and is now at 15.1 for the season. But he had just one catch for one yard. ... K Robbie Gould booted a career-best 54-yard field goal and had two touchbacks, giving him a career-best 13 for the season. ... RB Matt Forte averaged 4.9 yards on 13 carries, picking up 64 yards. He also caught two passes for 36 yards, giving him 100 yards from scrimmage.

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