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Bears defense looks strong without Urlacher, Smith

AP - Sports
Bears defense looks strong without Urlacher, Smith
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Brian Urlacher and Lovie Smith are gone.

That doesn't mean the Bears larcenous nature on defense went with them.

The Bears had four turnovers and linebacker Jonathan Bostic returned a Cam Newton interception 51 yards for a touchdown in their first game under new coach Marc Trestman.

Sure, the Bears lost the game 24-17, but their defense showed they will probably be just fine without Smith and Urlacher.

Here are five things we learned from the game:

1. CAM NEWTON STILL MAKES BAD DECISIONS. Newton was kicking himself after throwing an interception in the first quarter, calling it ''disgusting.''

Newton tried the force the ball into double coverage and it made for an easy pick for Bostic, who raced into the end zone.

''He tried to force it,'' coach Ron Rivera said.

If the Panthers are to take the next step and reach the playoffs, Newton can't make decisions that cost his team the game. Carolina had the lead and momentum at the time, and Newton needs to realize that one poor decision can turn the game around.

He'll be kicking himself about that one all week until he gets on the field again.

2. BEARS MIGHT HAVE FOUND SOMETHING: The Chicago Bears have liked what they've seen from the rookie Marquess Wilson so far in training camp and he didn't disappoint on Friday night.

The 6-foot-4, 184-pound rookie from Washington State had five catches for 82 yards in his NFL debut, including a 58-yard reception to set up Chicago's only offensive touchdown of the game.

3. JOSH NORMAN WANTS A JOB: Norman started last season as a rookie for the Panthers at cornerback, but found himself on the bench midway through the season after some blown coverages.

Norman started this year strong with two interceptions against the Bears, including one he took back 60 yards for a touchdown.

Rivera said he wants Norman to be more physical at the line of scrimmage, which has been a weakness for him. Right now Norman is starting in Carolina's nickel defense.

''He's a ball hog and he's got the ability to make plays,'' Rivera said. ''We saw that last year and I really do believe he's having a solid (training) camp.''

Norman said the game has slowed down for him this year.

4. BEARS MUST PROTECT THE QUARTERBACK BETTER: The Bears are still trying to figure out some things on the offensive line and Friday night's game proved they have decisions to make, particularly with their backups.

Chicago allowed seven sacks.

The good news for the Bears is five of those came in the second half when either the second- or third-team line was on the field.

''We did some good things out there but obviously not enough,'' offensive lineman Robert Garza said.

5. KENJON BARNER IS EXPLOSIVE BUT HAS A LOT TO LEARN: Panthers rookie running back Kenjon Barner scored on a 5-yard run but also had a hand in two turnovers.

He fumbled once carrying the ball loosely away from his body and also reached out to grab a handoff from Jimmy Clausen instead of letting the ball get tucked into his stomach resulting in a failed exchange and fumble.

Barner has blazing speed and great quickness and the Panthers want to use him as a scat back.

But the first way to get on a coach's bad side is to start turning the ball over. Barner knows that.

''That's unacceptable,'' said Barner, who led Oregon in rushing last season. ''I can't have that. In no way, shape or form can you win games with turnovers. I've got to get that corrected.''

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Online: AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org

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Follow Steve Reed on Twitter: http://twitter.com/SteveReedAP

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