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Bears Thursday Playbook: It's time to give Chris Conte some credit

The trolls have returned to their caves. It’s tough to pester Bears safety Chris Conte about anything these days on social media.

It’s because these days — specifically Sundays — have been good for Conte.

A little-known development — Conte is playing pretty well this season — can’t be and shouldn’t be ignored anymore. Not when he’s making acrobatic interceptions and preventing long touchdowns as he did in the Bears’ 21-13 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s time to give him some credit.

“I feel good,” Conte said. “I really just want to be able to dedicate everything I have to playing the best I possibly can. Hopefully, it shows on Sunday.”

And on Thanksgiving against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

For Conte, this season has been all about redemption. He wanted to prove that last year’s failures — the missed tackles in the open field, the frustrating mishaps in coverage or the infamous blown assignment in Week 17 — weren’t him.

During training camp, Conte jokingly said he had a whole list of folks he wanted to silence with his play. It’s Week 13 of the 2014 season, and you can only hear crickets now.

“A thing we always talk about is having a quiet 20 and 10, a reference to basketball,” Conte said.

“Just get your job done. You don’t have to be a star. Just do your job and be satisfied.”

Conte made two huge defensive plays Sunday. His tip-to-himself interception ended a solid possession by the Bucs in the first quarter.

Conte also chased and tackled receiver Louis Murphy, who stiff-armed him in the facemask, after three missed tackles by teammates on a 55-yard catch-and-run to save a possible touchdown with less than 90 seconds left before halftime.

There was more. In Pro Football Focus’ reviews, Conte had the most snaps in coverage for a safety in Week 12 — a whopping 53 — without allowing a reception. Conte also escaped the blowouts by the Packers and Patriots with respectable overall grades from PFF, unlike some of his teammates.

It’s all noteworthy for a player whose confidence was questioned since the end of last season. Conte also had to earn his starting job back after offseason shoulder surgery and has dealt with concussions and two sprained shoulders this season.

“He has overcome a lot, intermittent injury and things have happened to him,” coach Marc Trestman said.

“He’s moved along and is playing at a much more sufficient level for us on a week-to-week basis, and he’s playing with more confidence.”

Call him confident, and Conte says he’s just more prepared and “trying to be a professional about everything” on and off the field.

“If you’re not well-prepared, you’re just kind of hoping to get lucky,” he said. “If you prepare, you take luck out of the equation.”

With folks to keep quiet, not to mention a new contract to earn, Conte’s comeback run is far from complete.

“After last year, it was definitely something where I wanted to come out and have a strong year,” Conte said. “Last year was a disappointment for me and for everyone. I just wanted to prove that that’s not the player I am, that I’m much more talented and that I can play better at a consistent level.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns

COACHES CORNER — A look at the Lions defense with Aaron Kromer

‘‘We have to do a great job of using our hands against these guys. They’re very violent with their hands, and they believe in getting to the quarterback first, then playing the run.

‘‘Well, that gives them a lot of penetration. If one guy allows penetration in the run game, then it’s hard to cut back or cut forward, whatever you’re trying to do.

‘‘So you’re really trying to keep them on their side of the line of scrimmage as best you can in the running game, and in pass protection, you got to get on them fast.

‘‘They are relentless. They don’t stop. We’ve seen them over and over hitting quarterbacks, so we just want to make sure we’re aggressive with their [defensive] line.

‘‘Their linebackers are extremely aggressive. They’re not big, but they get off blocks, and they get edges.

‘‘When they decide that you’re running in a certain hole, or the hole that they have to fit, they do a great job of dipping their shoulder and getting under people and getting into the backfield to make the tackle. It’s been tough sledding against them.

‘‘[The Patriots] threw the ball very quickly [in a 34-9 victory Sunday against the Lions]. They took advantage of what they were giving them, and they found the open guy quickly and got rid of the ball before the pass rush could get there most of the time.

UNSUNG SPOTLIGHT: Demontre Hurst

Plenty of young players stood out Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but nickel back Demontre Hurst has been playing well for some time.

A second-year player who went undrafted out of Oklahoma, Hurst has been the Bears’ nickel back since Week 6 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Hurst’s aggressive tackling has impressed the Bears’ coaches. He was credited with six tackles against the Bucs and seven a week earlier against the Minnesota Vikings. Hurst also forced a fumble against Tampa Bay.

Plus, Hurst is being used as a blitzer, which he loves. He nearly had a sack of Josh McCown, but McCown just crossed the line of scrimmage.

“He comes hard; that’s key,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “He did a real nice job of winning on the edge, and he was relentless in his pursuit, and that was big.”