Rookie safety Conte solid in starting debut

October, 17, 2011
10/17/11
12:18
AM ET
[+] EnlargeChris Conte
AP Photo/Michael ConroyChris Conte had six tackles in his NFL debut and likely earned the right to start on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
CHICAGO -- For the first time in several weeks, the Chicago Bears' defense didn't have any busts in deep coverage, partly because the safeties lined up especially deep during the 39-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

It didn't hurt Minnesota entered the game with the No. 31-ranked pass offense, or that Bears defenders consistently harassed Vikings quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Christian Ponder, but safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright took the message to heart and got the necessary depth to thwart any long Minnesota pass attempt down the field.

"Really wanted to make sure we kept the ball in front of us," Conte said. "We played deep. They didn't really have any big plays so we were successful at that."

Conte made a few errors in his NFL debut, the most glaring being a missed open field tackle against Adrian Peterson, but he finished with six tackles and probably earned to right to remain in the starting lineup for at least another week. The Peterson miss was the result of a poor angle, the 2011 third-round pick explained, a correctable mistake moving forward.

"I was just coming down the middle of the field, and I definitely respect his speed to the outside," Conte said. "So I took a little bit too high of an angle, and he just gave me a little a shake and cut back on me."

"[The safeties] did a good job," Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "They tackled well, I think. I'll know better when I watch the film, but I think they did a good job."

It remains to be seen if veteran Chris Harris, barring an injury, can work his way back into the mix. Harris was inactive on Sunday night, a move Bears coach Lovie Smith attributed to special teams, although that seems highly unlikely given Harris' track record of success in Smith's defense.

"It's pretty simple for us," Smith said. "We have a starting crew, and if you're not in the starting lineup, you have to be able to play special teams. We base the rest of the positions on special teams ... that was the main reason Chris [Harris] didn't dress."

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.

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