CHICAGO — Young safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright helped the Chicago Bears defense dominate the Vikings on Sunday night by stepping into a tough situation and making it work.

CHICAGO — Young safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright helped the Chicago Bears defense dominate the Vikings on Sunday night by stepping into a tough situation and making it work.

They made it work by not getting beat deep.

“We just wanted to keep the ball in front of us and not give up the big play,” Conte, a rookie third-round draft pick, said after his first NFL start. “We knew we had to force them to beat us, and they didn’t. By doing that, that’s how we were most successful.”

And by doing that, they allowed the stars of the Bears’ defense to do their jobs in a 39-10 rout of Minnesota. Or was it that the stars played well, which allowed the safeties to do their jobs?
“When those guys are doing that,” Conte added, “it’s a lot easier on us.”

Defensive end Julius Peppers, listed before the game as doubtful with a knee injury, not only played, but played well. He had two sacks, two quarterback hits and three tackles for loss.

“Whenever you have a player like him, you know you’re going to get a great pass rush,” Conte said. “When you see him rushing the quarterback, you feel a little better about playing DB.”

The other end, Israel Idonije, had a sack, two tackles for a loss and two QB hits. And cornerback Charles Tillman added 11 tackles. The Bears racked up a season-high five sacks, eight tackles for loss and laid hits on Viking quarterbacks on eight occasions.

But still, some of the credit has to go to the newly aligned defensive backfield.

“This was the best game we played defensively — this year,” Smith said after Minnesota managed just 286 yards, 53 on the ground. “We kept the ball in front of us, and our two safeties got their first start (together) and did a good job their first time out.”

Wright, a 2010 third-round pick, got beat for a 30-yard pass to Bernard Berrian in the first half but had decent coverage on the play, forcing Donovan McNabb to put the ball right where it needed to be. Minnesota also had 23- and 20-yard completions, but those came late, with the Bears well-ahead.

Conte had six tackles and Wright four after replacing starters Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather. Neither came close to picking off a pass (Harris had five last year) or lighting anybody up with a big hit (Meriweather’s signature move), but neither was burned deep (one thing both Harris and Meriweather were quickly becoming known for). Conte began the game lined up 21 yards off the line of scrimmage, and Wright could be found playing deep center field at different times as well.

It worked. And playing with a big lead helped, too.

“Whenever they come and do well, and score, it definitely gives you confidence and makes you feel better. You know the offense has your back, and it gives you a little extra boost,” Conte said. “I definitely had some nervousness and some jitters. ... But I think I came in and executed, and we’ll go from there. We’ll learn from the game and come back next week and be better.”

Better, like they were this week.

Bears reporter Jay Taft can be reached at 815-987-1384 or jtaft@rrstar.com.