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Bears defense incensed after Raiola stomps on Ego Ferguson

Always feisty, often abrasive and habitually combative Lions center Dominic Raiola claims he inadvertently stumbled in the aftermath of a Lions running play in the third quarter Sunday and just happened to firmly plant his left foot into Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson’s right calf.

“I was kind of stumbling, totally unintentional,” Raiola said. “I talked to Ego after the game. Everything was cool. Apologized, hugged it out. Talked to Jared [Allen]. Everything was cool.”

Maybe now. But not at the time.

“Hell, yeah, I was angry,” Ferguson said. “I felt like I was being taken out. It motivated a lot of guys. We came out on fire.

“It wasn’t over after that. I told [the trainer], ‘Let’s wrap this [stuff] up and let’s go.’ It kind of motivated me. I was getting off the ball better. I was trying to make a play.”

The Raiola-Ferguson play incensed a Bears defense that already was playing at a fever pitch.

“I’ll withhold comment on that,” rookie safety Brock Vereen said when asked for a response to the Raiola incident. “I saw what I saw. Regardless of what anybody else said, it’s going to be hard to change my mind on that.”

“I think I better be careful about what I say [about that play],” defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff said.

But Ratliff’s actions spoke louder than his words. When Raiola ignited another skirmish in the fourth quarter, Ratliff came off the sideline between plays to confront Raiola, then went back to the sideline.

What was he doing?

“[It] was a substitution,” Ratliff said, knowing nobody was going to buy that story. “We’re a unit. You do something dirty to one of us . . . I kind of black out for a second. That’s what it is — we’re gonna stick together.”

The Bears’ defense has been playing on emotion all season. It just showed more Sunday, when the defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, harassed Matthew Stafford into his second-worst game of the season (no touchdowns, two interceptions, a 53.7 rating) and contained Calvin Johnson (six receptions for 103 yards out of 12 targets, no touchdowns) and gave the Bears a chance in a 20-14 loss at Soldier Field.

It won’t erase the stain of several abominable performances, but it was at least a sign that Mel Tucker and the defense have the ability to learn. On Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field, the Bears had no answer as Stafford torched them for 390 yards and two touchdowns in the Lions’ 34-17 victory.

This time, the Bears had some answers. Allen sacked Stafford on a stunt on the first third down of the game. The Bears played more aggressively, jamming Lions receivers at the line of scrimmage.

Vereen and Ryan Mundy had interceptions. Stafford rarely looked comfortable in the pocket as the Bears applied consistent pressure — with David Bass, Ratliff and linebacker Christian Jones also getting sacks.

It wasn’t enough — it has been that kind of year. But at least the Bears looked like they were trying something different, like they had a better plan.

“We played a lot of man-to-man coverage,” Mundy said. “When you call man coverage, you win some and you lose some. You just have to win your share of battles. Particularly when coach Tucker called man coverage, he’s going to see how it goes. It was going well for us, so he kept calling it.”

The more aggressive approach — and the emotion of another difficult week at Halas Hall — seemed to energize the Bears. And provide a little hope.

“With all that’s been going on — the quarterback change — we knew we had to fight,” Mundy said. “It shouldn’t take a quarterback change to light a fire under us. But hopefully we can build off this performance and the momentum and energy because, honestly, it felt really good out there today.”