Keys To The Game: Week Five Against The Panthers

Keys To The Game: Week Five Against The Panthers
Both the Bears and Panthers are coming off tough losses. Can the Bears bounce back this week on the road?

After suffering their second loss at home this season, the Bears head back on the road Sunday to face the Panthers.

The road has been where the Bears (2-2) have had their most success, winning both games in primetime. The Bears didn’t fare well in last Sunday’s loss to rival Green Bay and either did the Panthers (2-2), who got beat down 38-10 by the Ravens.

Both teams are hungry for a victory in this NFC clash, which always provides solid entertainment. The last meeting between these two teams in 2012 ended on a Robbie Gould 41-yard field goal with time expiring to win it 23-22.

This time around a lot has changed for both sides. The Bears’ defense has many new faces and the Panthers backfield and receiving core is almost unrecognizable.

The one mainstay at linebacker from that last meeting is Lance Briggs, who is still a very solid player. He reminisced about playing for his former defensive coordinator and now Panthers head coach Ron Rivera from 2004-2006.

“Ron was great. I loved playing for Ron,” Briggs said in a Wednesday press conference. “You can tell he was a guy who played the game.”

The 33-year-old Briggs has 18 tackles this season, ranking behind safety Ryan Mundy, linebacker Jon Bostic and cornerback Kyle Fuller. He had just three tackles in last week’s loss and has only one tackle for a loss this season.

Expect Briggs to be fired up this week, trying to put a tough divisional loss behind. The Bears need to turn things around on the defensive side of the ball and Briggs is still the heart and soul of that defense.

Injury Report

Panthers — OUT: RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle); Limited: DE Charles Johnson (hip flexor), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee sprain), RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

With all the question marks at running back, Carolina has had to make some tough decisions this week. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said on Wednesday that Darrin Reaves is the starter, while recently signed Chris Ogbonnaya will spell him for carries.

Also, linebacker Thomas Davis missed last week with a hip injury, but returned to practicing in full on Wednesday.

Bears — OUT: LB Shea McCellin (hand); Limited: G Matt Slauson (ankle), C Roberto Garza (ankle), DE Jared Allen (illness), CB Sherrick McManis (quad) and T Jermon Bushrod (knee); DNP: LB Lance Briggs (knee), S Ahmad Dixon (hamstring) and LB D.J. Williams (neck).

McCellin didn’t practice despite not having a cast on his broken right hand. Slauson and Garza were able to practice on a limited basis and head coach Marc Trestman is calling them day-to-day.

McManis appears to be closer to return, while Allen may be hit with the questionable tag as he currently sits at 241 lbs, his playing weight prior to the pneumonia last week was 254. Allen seems confident that he will play, while Trestman said they will address the issue on Friday.

Lastly, receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) practiced in full for the first time since Week One.

Keys to the GameHere are the three keys to a Bears victory on Sunday in Carolina.

Make it count in the red zone

The Bears currently rank as the second best red-zone scoring offense in the league behind only Atlanta. In terms of touchdowns, the Bears are scoring them 71.4 percent of times when they get inside their opponent’s 20-yard line. On the road, the red-zone has been a good place for them as Jay Cutler and Co. has scored 85.7 percent of the time. The Panthers rank last in both red-zone offense and defense, converting only 30 percent of the time on touchdowns offensively. This is a big opportunity for the Bears who added nearly 500 yards of total offense last week. The Panthers allowed 454 yards to Baltimore last week as the Ravens converted 10 of 13 third-downs and averaged 7.4 yards per play.

Continue progression on the ground

Matt Forte broke out in a big way last week as the Bears running game totaled 235 yards. Forte added 122 yards, while rookie Ka’Deem Carey paced him with 72 yards. They both averaged over five yards per carry. The Bears ran the ball a season-high 41 times, while throwing 35 passes. It was a solid balance, but it wasn’t enough to beat the red-hot Packers. This week against the Panthers it could be. Carolina’s offense doesn’t have a true identity, with quarterback Cam Newton still getting back to full strength. He has only three touchdowns on the year and his best targets are tight end Greg Olsen and rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The Bears set themselves up with a formula for success last week and it starts with Forte and the ground game.

Play Hungry

The Bears’ offense played hungry in the first half last week, but fell off after coming back onto the field for the second half. The defense was a disgrace totaling zero quarterback pressures and one “sack” on a scrambling Aaron Rodgers. The Panthers didn’t fare much better totaling just two quarterback hits on Joe Flacco in Baltimore. This certainly isn’t a must have game, but the Bears have to play with some sense of urgency considering three of their next four games are on the road. Mel Tucker has to take some chances with this defense things are getting way too predictable. The pressure from the front four just isn’t there and the secondary has been exposed. This game is their for the Bears to take if they can get points on the board early and often.

Thoughts on the keys to the game? Make sure to weigh in on the comment section below.

Fast Teddy

With a spot open on the 53-man roster after waiving linebacker Terrell Manning on Tuesday, the Bears signed cornerback Teddy Williams to the off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad.

Williams, 26, is a pure athlete, who has played wide receiver and cornerback since entering the league in 2010. He didn’t play college football at University of Texas-San Antonio, instead he opted to run track, where he finished as the university’s first ever four-time all-America selection.

Prior to signing as an undrafted rookie with the Cowboys in 2010, Williams ran a reported 4.26 40-yard dash. He will come in and contribute on special teams and could vie for snaps as a return man or as a depth corner as the season progresses.

Coming Thursday: Key Matchup


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