Once the pillar of the team's success, the Chicago Bears' defense has taken a gigantic step backward thus far this season.
One week after the Bears were shredded by rookie quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, they gave up two scoring plays of 73 yards or more in a loss to the Detroit Lions. Following Monday's game, Bears coach Lovie Smith suggested there might be looming personnel changes, and it appears he has decided his team's problems center on the safety position.
The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday, citing multiple team sources, that safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte will replace Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather in the starting lineup this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
Smith said Thursday that the Bears are "looking at a lot of different options," though he wouldn't reveal if he was benching the safeties.
Harris said "whoever's taking the first-team reps" in practice usually gets the nod, and he didn't work with the starters Thursday.
Harris, who had missed three consecutive games, and Meriweather were in the middle of the two big scoring plays in Monday's loss. Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson beat Harris by a couple of steps on a deep pass from Matthew Stafford, and then Meriweather whiffed on a tackle as Johnson completed the 73-yard touchdown catch. Another breakdown by Harris in the secondary led to Jahvid Best's 88-yard touchdown run.
If everything goes as planned, the Vikings game will mark Conte's first career start and Wright's fourth.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.