Notebook: Safety Position Still in Flux

The Bears started Chris Harris and Chris Conte at safety on Sunday. It was the team's sixth different safety combo in the season's first seven weeks. We also bring you player notes and game grades.

It's been a heck of a roller-coaster ride for strong safety Chris Harris and rookie free safety Chris Conte.

Harris started in Week 5, was benched in Week 6 and a day later requested a trade, and then he was back in the starting lineup Sunday when Major Wright's hip injury made him inactive. Conte was mostly a special teams player in the first five games, but Sunday was his second straight start.

That combination was the Bears' sixth different safety tandem this season in seven games. Harris' return represented the Bears' eighth change at one of the safety spots and the 51st change at safety since Lovie Smith became head coach in 2004.

In an excellent first-half defensive performance, Conte had the biggest play when he stuck Bucs wide receiver Mike Williams inches shy of the goal line before he had possession, and then snatched the loose ball for his first NFL interception, one of four by the Bears.

"You can pretty much look at that turnover ratio each week, and that will tell you who won the game," coach Lovie Smith said. "But for us defensively, we haven't been getting enough takeaways."

WR Roy Williams
Warren Little/Getty

--Jay Cutler's 25-yard touchdown pass to Roy Williams was his first score as a Bear, and his first touchdown in 16 games dating back to his 2010 season as a Cowboy. The score came when Cutler foiled a Bucs blitz, which left Williams in single coverage and he was able to get behind cornerback E.J. Biggers.

"He did some good stuff for us," Cutler said. "He's starting to come along. We're starting to get a little bit of chemistry there. Like I said two, three, four games ago: 'It takes time. It doesn't happen overnight.' Finally we're starting to see some steps forward."

Williams finished with a team-high 59 yards on four catches, tied for honors with Devin Hester.

--Cornerback D.J. Moore will remember his first trip across the pond for his game-saving interception in the final minute, but he'll also remember the fan who ran onto the field.

"That was exciting," Moore said. "I think you need to do that once every game. The guys chasing him were kind of slow. That was bad. Most of the time when you see it on TV, the guy that's real good is tackling him. They were bad."

Moore said he had no desire to end the mischief by tackling the fan.

"I wanted to high-five him," Moore said. "It seemed pretty cool to me. I thought he was going to take his pants off and everything."

--With a chance to tie Nate Kaeding to be the most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history, Robbie Gould's 41-yard attempt was wide right with 3:45 left in the third quarter.

It was Gould's first miss of the season after hitting 13 straight, but his 25-yard field goal with 1:55 left gave the Bears their final points.


--LB Brian Urlacher had his third interception of the season vs. the Bucs. Only once in his previous 11 seasons has he had more picks; he had five in 2007.

--CB D.J. Moore has seven interceptions in his last 22 games as the Bears' nickel corner. He had his third of the season on Sunday.

--WR Devin Hester had four catches for 46 yards, but he was targeted nine times.

--FB Tyler Clutts had two receptions for 17 yards. He had just three catches for 16 yards in his first six games as a Bear.

--DT Amobi Okoye had his third sack of the season Sunday. The only season in which he's had more was his rookie year of 2007, when he had five with the Texans.


WR Devin Hester
Warren Little/Getty

PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Not one of Jay Cutler's better games. He was picked twice, but one was a catchable ball that bounced off Marion Barber's hands, which dropped his passer rating to 60.2, his second-lowest mark of the season. Roy Williams had a blatant drop of a perfect throw early, but his 59 yards were a team best. He and Devin Hester each had four catches, and Johnny Knox had three catches for 53 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Matt Forte had 145 yards on 25 attempts, and Marion Barber added 39 on six carries. The Bears' total of 177 yards was second best of the season, and the 5.4-yard average was a team best for 2011. The front five did an excellent job of opening holes for the run game, especially in the first half.

PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- The pass rush was nonexistent in the second half and rarely got pressure without blitz help. DT Amobi Okoye had the only sack, his third of the season. But the Bears had four interceptions and only allowed one play longer than 20 yards. Nickel corner D.J. Moore had his third interception of the season and rookie free safety Chris Conte had his first in the NFL, just inches short of the goal line. LBs Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher also had interceptions.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- The running game was nearly eliminated (30 yards on 11 carries) after top backup Earnest Graham left with a first-quarter ankle injury. Starter LeGarrette Blount was already out with an ankle injury. All three linebackers were active in run support and each had a tackle for negative yardage, as was DE Israel Idonije.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- PK Robbie Gould missed a 41-yarder that would have tied him for the most accurate kicker in NFL history but hit a 25-yarder late that provided some breathing room. Devin Hester was a mere mortal on returns and made a poor decision not to field a punt that rolled for an extra 20 yards.

COACHING: C-plus - Getting most of their work done at Halas Hall and arriving in London late in the week worked fine for the Bears, although they did seem to lose some steam in the second half. In the second half, offensive coordinator Mike Martz went away from the run game that had worked extremely well in the first half. But a win is a win.

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