Bears 23 Panthers 22
The offense was 3 1/2 quarters of bad, but the Bears still found a way to win moving to 6-1. Some key defensive efforts and a franchise quarterback performance from Cutler late in the 4th was enough. The offense continues to have cohesiveness issues, but the defense picked them up again. Here's this week's grades for the game.
Quarterback : C-
Jay Cutler was sacked 6 times in the game. At least half of the sacks were on the offensive line, but at least 2-3 were on Cutler himself. Cutler was 19/28 for 186 yards. He threw 1 TD pass to Kellen Davis in the 4th quarter. Jay made a poor decision to throw a deep pass to Brandon Marshall while being triple covered. That decision resulted in a interception. Cutler could not get the offense to drive downfield for 3 1/2 quarters despite good field position. However, late in the game, when it mattered, Cutler worked the ball down field to setup the game winning field goal.
Running backs: B-
Matt Forte was the early bright spot in the Bears' offense. Forte had 15 carries for 70 yards and a early 1st quarter TD. The Panthers limited the Bears running game after that. Michael Bush only had 3 carries for 5 yards total in the game. The front seven of the Panthers really were a tough matchup for the Bears offense. Forte averaged 4.7 yards per carry and his longest rush was for 16 yards. Forte also had 5 receptions for 24 yards.
Brandon Marshall was just shy of 100 yards with 98 yards. Marshall had 9 receptions and averaged almost 10 yards per catch. Marshall used his size as receiver effectively catching the ball and adding some key blocks on some Forte runs. Cutler started connecting with Earl Bennett late in 3rd quarter while trailing. Bennett finished with 3 receptions for 47 yards, but was key in sparking the Bears offense to its late rally. Devin Hester didn't do much. He had one reception for 5 yards. Hester dropped a ball he should of caught that would of been a big third down conversion. The tight end position continues to block well, but leaves a lot to be desired offensively. Matt Spaeth dropped a ball in his hands. Kellen Davis did provide a critical 12 yard TD pass in the 4th quarter.
Offensive Line: C-
The offensive line still remains a issue giving up 6 sacks in the first half. Cutler was sacked a total of 6 times, but 2-3 were avoidable if Jay gets rid of the ball faster. The line was better in the second allowing no sacks. The pressure that the Panthers front seven brought was too much for the Bears offense to handle. Roberto Garza had a bad penalty in the game. J'Marcus Webb had trouble containing the pass rushers off the end. While the Bears running game was good early, it depleted as the game moved along. Offensive Coordinator Mike Tice went into a lot of max protection to help the line. It wasn't pretty, but the Bears were efficient when they needed to be at the end.
Defensive Line: D
The pressure from the defensive line was very limited. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was pressure free for way too much of the game. Julius Peppers had a early sack and registered another later in the game. Israel Idonije had two crucial penalties that were costly. Corey Wotton deflected a pass in the game. Shea McClellin used his speed to register a tackle for a loss to create a long third down. Pressure by Henry Melton forced Newton to throw the ball away on a key third down.
The linebackers were active through the entire game. The Panthers did come away with a total of 119 yards rushing against the Bears. Despite the high number, the Panthers were limited to a average of 3.3 yards per carry. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs had 7 total tackles .Urlacher had a tackle for loss and Briggs was instrumental on some big hits. Urlacher still is a step slow, otherwise he would of likely recovered the forced fumble Major Wright caused. Nick Roach contributed with 2 tackles.
Tim Jennings was tasked with covering Steve Smith, who always has a big game against the Chicago Bears. Smith had 7 catches for 118 yards and missed some plays were he was open. Jennings still did a great job overall with 2 INT and 8 tackles. One of those INT's was a on pass to Smith and Jennings took it back for a touchdown to put the Bears ahead. Charles Tillman had 7 tackles and was strong in the run support early. Major Wright had 4 tackles and caused a forced fumble that Carolina ultimately recovered. Chris Conte had 8 tackles, but was gashed badly by Brandon LaFell for 62 yards. Conte took a bad angle and paid dearly for it.
Special Teams: A
Devin Hester was looking to be more aggressive in the return game vs. the Panthers. After a 11 yard punt return, the Panthers decided they weren't going to let Hester beat them on kickoffs. The Panthers decided to squib kick each time. This gave the Bears good starting field position. Adam Podlesh punted 4 times and trapped 3 of those punts inside the 20. The Panthers had no return yards in the game. Despite missing one field goal, Robbie Gould made up for it hitting the game winning 41 yard FG with swirling winds. Gould's kickoffs were all deep contributing to the Panthers having 0 yards for return.
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