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Bruising Bears ‘D’ finds identity: ‘Being the Monsters of the Midway’

Cam Newton is sacked by the Bears' Leonard Floyd on Sunday. (Getty Images)

If there was a play Sunday that encapsulated the Bears’ rough-and-tumble front seven, consider the Panthers’ fourth-and-two run midway through the third quarter.

From the shotgun, quarterback Cam Newton ran behind a pulling guard and a running back — ‘‘It’s just a lot of meat coming through one area,’’ defensive end Akiem Hicks said — and was stuffed by nose tackle Eddie Goldman and others. He came up short.

‘‘We did a great job of shutting it down,’’ Hicks said.

It’s the kind of play that helps cement a reputation.

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‘‘They’re starting to get this identity of being the Monsters of the Midway again,’’ tight Zach Miller said. ‘‘And they did everything they could to help us win the football game.’’

The scary part is, they could be better. The defense has lost three starters — outside linebacker Willie Young, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman and safety Quintin Demps — to injured reserve.

‘‘Honestly, I can’t say that we haven’t missed a beat,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘I know our performances in the past two weeks have been really good. There’s been an adjustment. There’s been an adjustment period of just having to go from one voice in the room to — you know what I mean? It’s different, right? And the communication is different. And now we have to find different channels of communication.’’

Hard-hitting Fuller

Hicks couldn’t hear what cornerback Kyle Fuller said to Newton after he upended him on a planned run in the second quarter.

‘‘I was so busy looking in [Fuller’s] eyes because I had never seen his eyes that wide,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘I’m like: ‘Look at Cam. Cam’s, like, 6-8 and Kyle’s, like, 5-9.’ Have you ever seen a Chihuahua fight a pit bull? Neither have I, but I bet it’s not pretty.

‘‘Intensity — it can be contagious.’’

Coach John Fox said Fuller, who missed all last season after arthroscopic knee surgery, merely has gotten healthy.

‘‘I think he’s working very hard, and I think it’s showing, which is great,’’ Fox said. ‘‘It’s great for him and great for us.’’

This and that

Miller is relishing the Bears’ first winning streak since November 2015.

‘‘There’s a lot of ball left to play,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s wide-open for us. We’re up for the challenge. It’s exciting now. We’re kind of getting back into things, and it’s a huge challenge to go on the road and face the Saints. Football is fun.”

† The Bears announced the start of their coat drive, in which 187 Jewel-Osco stores will accept coats between now and Jan. 1, to benefit the Salvation Army.

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com