Lovie Smith and the Bears celebrate as Robbie Gould’s 41-yard field goal goes through the goal posts for a 23-22 victory over the Carolina Panthers. (Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune)
Talk about winning ugly. As one of the 60,000+ faithful in attendance of Sunday’s 23-22 victory over the Panthers, I have to admit, it looked pretty bleak on a cold but sunny day. I also have to say that it didn’t feel nearly as cold the second half of the fourth quarter as the Bears were mounting their comeback.
In case you missed it, I did my weekly Q&A with the Panthers site leading up to this game. If you’re a frequent visitor to the site, you know I like block quoting myself, so here goes my prediction:
"You didn’t ask, but I’ll give you a quick prediction. The Bears and Panthers play each other so often, it almost seems like they’re in the same division. There’s a lot of familiarity between the two teams, so there shouldn’t be a lot of surprises. The Panthers were shaken up with the firing of their GM, so the players will be playing with some added intensity. Besides that, the Bears are coming off a short week with an emotional win over the division rival Lions. The Bears could be set up for a letdown game, but they rally to keep rolling. Bears 23, Panthers 19"
Not too shabby, eh?
It’s hard to say why the Bears are off to such bad starts this season, especially the offense, but from my seat in Section 235, I could see that the offensive line looked absolutely pathetic, making the Panthers look like a bunch of Pro Bowlers.
Jay Cutler looked completely disinterested for the first three and a half quarters. Maybe he was looking ahead to a trip “home” to Nashville, maybe Camden was up all night and he was just tired or maybe those sore ribs were slowing him down. I thought the offensive game plan was horrible. Matt Forte looked good out of the gate and has a history of owning the Panthers. So how is it that in a close game that was a one-score game for much of the time, does he end up with only 15 carries? How is it that Michael Bush, the battering ram that he is, gets 3 carries? How do you do that when your offensive line’s strength is run blocking? I just don’t get it.
The defense wasn’t their usual spectacular selves, allowing the Panthers to march up and down the field, stiffening to force field goals instead of touchdowns, which ultimately saved them. The savior of the day had to be Tim Jennings, who came up with another pair of interceptions, but none this season was bigger than his pick-6 late in the fourth quarter to give the Bears a surprising 20-19 lead.
The Panthers marched back to score a go-ahead field goal to go ahead 22-19 lead with about 2:27 left on the clock. Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall took over, moving the Bears 55 yards to set Robbie Gould up for the 41-yard game winner.
A few more notes, let’s go bullet points.
- I continue to be impressed with the young defensive linemen. Shea McClellin had a nice tackle for loss, Corey Wooton had a nice pass deflection, Henry Melton continues to get pressure up the middle.
- The diving interception that Tim Jennings had was a case of Greg Olsen giving up on the ball, but Jennings came out of nowhere to snatch that ball. Very impressive play.
- Lance Briggs also keeps on keeping on.
- Steve Smith had 7 catches for 118 yards. It only felt like more. He’s made a career of beating the Bears up and this actually fell well below his career average vs the Beloved.
- The Bears had -10 yards (yes, negative ten yards) up until late in the third quarter. If Jay Cutler hadn’t hit Earl Bennett for 24 yards and 11 yards on consecutive plays in the closing seconds of the third quarter, I wonder if they would have been able to play Final Jeopardy. (You nerds out there will get that reference).
- The Bears had absurdly good field position all day long as the Panthers chose to squib kick away from Devin Hester all day. I really would have liked to see the Bears do something different in their return team to counter that move.
- Someone is going to have to help me understand the logic of going for a field goal in the fourth quarter down 19-7. It just didn’t make sense to me.
- The Bears were extremely lucky that Jay Cutler didn’t get hurt while chasing down the intercepted 2-point conversion he threw. The opposing team cannot advance a failed conversion. It felt like a repeat of the Chargers game when Cutty broke his thumb last season.
That’s enough for tonight. More to follow after I thaw out from a surprisingly cold Soldier Field.