The Bears ran, ran and ran some more Sunday, and the result was a slim 34-29 win over the Carolina Panthers.

The Bears ran, ran and ran some more Sunday, and the result was a slim 34-29 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Chicago rushed for a season-high 224 yards, and Matt Forte broke out for a career-high 205 yards on the ground.

But did Bears fans see enough Sunday to make them believe in this team? No, because the defense was backpedaling almost the whole day.

“We’re not apologizing at all about this win,” coach Lovie Smith said. “Whenever you give up that many yards, you’re not happy about it, though.”

Well, let’s see: How’s 534 yards strike ya? More than any Bear defense has allowed in a game in 29 years.

“Yeah, that was not good,” said nickelback D.J. Moore, who returned an interception for a touchdown for one of the few bright spots for the Bears’ defense.

Carolina’s rookie quarterback Cam Newton lit up the Chicago secondary, showing more poise in the pocket than six-year veteran Jay Cutler has in any game this season.

Newton threw for 374 yards and ran for 35 more with two touchdowns. Wide receiver Steve Smith caught eight balls for 181 yards, and running backs DeAngelo Williams (10 for 82) and Jonathan Stewart (eight for 52) had big holes to run through throughout the game.

Chicago held Carolina to 2-of-12 on third-down conversions, and the Bears’ defense got Moore’s touchdown off a deflection and a 20-yard return. But Tim Jennings couldn’t hold on to two other would-be interceptions.

And when your weakness is in the secondary, you must have a good pass rush. The Bears did not.

Zero sacks. Zero quarterback hits. Zero forced fumbles. One tackle for loss.

In one of the better disappearing acts of the year, a couple of key Chicago  pass rushers were there, but really weren’t.

Defensive end pass rusher extraordinaire Julius Peppers? Three tackles.

His sidekick Israel Idonije? Two tackles, one for a loss.
Anthony Adams? Two tackles.

Amobi Okoye? Three tackles.

Henry Melton? Nothing, nada, zilcho.

And though pressure on the opposing QB has been an on-again, off-again thing with Chicago this year, the overall porous defense has not. This was not just a one-week brain-freeze. The play of the vaunted Chicago defense has given fans reason to worry all season. Chicago has given up 426 yards per game, second-to-last in the league.

“I can’t put a finger on what’s wrong with this defense,” said Peppers, who also had a blocked field goal Sunday, but it was a low, shank of a kick. “We’re not playing as well as we should be.”

Nose tackle Matt Toeaina made his presence felt on a couple of occasions, but not enough to carry the entire line. And it’s a scary feeling when the man they call “Toe” is the defensive star of the game.

All is not lost. Once safety Chris Harris is back on the field — which may be another two weeks — and Peppers and Co. get off those sleds stuck in reverse, this can be a dominant defense again.

“It’s fine. We’re going to get it corrected,” Peppers said. “We’ve got a lot of time to get it corrected.”

They best not take too much time, Next up: The 4-0 Lions and their 33.8 points-per-game average.

Reach Jay Taft at 815-987-1384 or jtaft@rrstar.com.