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Bears defense knows it must improve

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (L) end Nick Reed combine bring down Carolinrunning back DeAngelo Williams during Chicago Bears 34-29 wover

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman (L) and end Nick Reed combine to bring down Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams during the Chicago Bears 34-29 win over the Carolina Panthers Sunday October 2, 2011 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 15, 2011 12:20PM

After snapping a two-game losing streak, the Bears weren’t in a position to be picky Sunday at Soldier Field.

But for a proud defense — one that ranked ninth in 2010 and aimed to be the league’s best this season — the performance against the Carolina Panthers was another to forget.

Asked about the Panthers gashing them on the ground and through the air, Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said, “I don’t really care because we won.”

But he quickly added, “I’ll be pissed off when we watch the film.”

The Bears’ defense scored when D.J. Moore returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown, and the unit allowed only two third-down conversions in 12 attempts.

And while the Bears have allowed passing yards to pile up — they were 20th in pass defense last season — they always have forced teams to be one-dimensional by stifling running backs.

Not this season.

Neither the Green Bay Packers nor the New Orleans Saints excelled at running the ball last season, yet both were efficient enough to keep the Bears off-balance in victories last month.

But the Panthers averaged 6.5 yards per carry Sunday. More humbling is this: Subtract quarterback Cam Newton’s 35 rushing yards, and running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 134 yards on 18 carries, an average of 7.4 yards per attempt.

Asked if stopping the run is a foundation of the Bears’ defense, defensive tackle Matt Toeaina said, “It’s supposed to be. But it’s something we’re not doing.”

He and teammates insisted that the problems are fixable and that they can turn their play around with modest moves.

“There’s fundamentals to having a solid run defense. If you get out of that system, your opponents are going to make plays,” Israel Idonije said. “It’s just something we have to go back to the drawing board and address. We’re a veteran group. We’ll be all right.”

One of the key issues, for instance, is making routine tackles.

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman admitted he was a part of that problem.

“Really, we just haven’t played good,” he said. “We’ve missed some easy tackles, myself included. We definitely have to play defense way better if we expect to win in Detroit because they’re playing unbelievable right now.

“They’re on fire. They’re 4-0. And, yeah, in order for us to win against a team like that, we have to bring our A game in all three phases.”

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