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Defense played takeaway early in loss

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Before a disastrous second half in Sunday's 31-24 loss to the Panthers, the defense helped stake the Bears to a 21-7 second-quarter lead by generating three takeaways.

With the Bears trailing 7-0, nickel back Isaiah Frey ripped the ball away from rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin after an 18-yard catch and Frey recovered the fumble at the Carolina 28.

Three plays later, Jay Cutler flipped a screen pass over the middle to Kyle Long, who dashed into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown, tying the score 7-7.

Three plays after Forte's TD, defensive end Willie Young's blindside sack of Cam Newton resulted in a fumble that lineman Lamarr Houston recovered at the Carolina 13. Three plays later, Cutler scrambled for a 10-yard TD on third-and-seven, giving the Bears a 14-7 lead.

The third takeaway came later in the first half when linebacker Lance Briggs made a diving interception at the Chicago 23 on a pass that was deflected by defensive tackle Ego Ferguson. Forte turned a screen pass into a 56-yard gain, but Robbie Gould missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.

The Bears now have 10 takeaways in three road games and one takeaway in two home contests.

On the ground: Missing top running backs DeAngelo Williams (ankle) and Jonathan Stewart (knee), the Panthers split the workload on the ground.

Darrin Reaves (11 carries for 35 yards), Chris Ogbonnaya (8-24), receiver Philly Brown (2-22) and Newton (6-9) combined to rush for 90 yards on 27 attempts.

Newton completed 19 of 35 passes for 255 yards with two TDs, one interception and an 84.8 rating. He was sacked twice—by Young and tackle Stephen Paea.

Welcome back: After sitting out last weekend's loss to the Packers due to pneumonia, defensive end Jared Allen played the entire game Sunday and led the Bears with seven tackles.

Left guard Matt Slauson returned after being sidelined since hurting his ankle in the season opener.

"I wasn't as good as I wanted to be [health-wise], but I was as good as I had to be," Slauson said. "I was glad I was able to play."

Even with Slauson back, the Bears were still down two starting offensive linemen in center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee). Brian de la Puente replaced Garza for the fourth straight game, while Michael Ola moved from left guard to left tackle.

Other Bears who sat out with injuries were cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring), linebacker Shea McClellin (hand) and defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion). Rookie tackle Charles Leno Jr. Jr. also was inactive.

Aches and pains: Injuries continue to plague safety Chris Conte, who exited Sunday's game in the first half with a concussion. He was replaced by Danny McCray.

After undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, Conte sustained a concussion in a preseason game in Seattle and left regular-season contests against the 49ers and Jets with shoulder injuries.

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