The Panthers come into this having lost to the Cowboys 19-14 in a close one, coming into this game with a record of 1-5.
The Bears need to win this game in order to keep pace with the Vikings, who have been playing well as of late, and could take over the division if the Bears slip. Chicago also needs to stay ahead of the Packers who are playing great football after starting off the season struggling. Every win is important for the Bears.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that the Bears need to do in order to win this game and keep pace with the other teams in their division.
When the Bears have the Ball
The Bears' offense had its struggles against the Lions' offense this Monday night and was only able to put up 13 points. The Bears will have to generate much more offense against the Panthers so the offense has its work cut out for them. And on whose shoulders will this lie? Quarterback Jay Cutlers.
As is the case in most games the Bears play, Cutler has to get the ball out to his best receiver, Brandon Marshall. The connection has been working just about all season and it’s got to work again this Sunday. Marshall can help stretch the field and make some key catches as well as take some of the heat off of other receivers, such as Devin Hester and Earl Bennett, and allow them to make some catches. Marshall is a much bigger factor in the offense than most people give him credit for.
Establishing the running game would go a long ways towards helping the Bears out on offense, if they can generate some kind of rushing attack against the Panthers and keep some of the heat off of Cutler and the passing game. Running the ball would also open up the passing attack a little bit more and give the Bears the opportunity to use play action. Their runners are capable of gaining big chunks of yards at one time so running the ball is a must for the Bears. They need to control the ball and the clock.
Hopes are that Cutler’s sore ribs won’t take anything away from his ability to pass the ball accurately and deep down the field. The Bears and their fans will be keeping a close eye on the news this week regarding his injury and hoping that it isn’t as bad as it appeared to be in the Monday game.
When the Panthers have the Ball
The Bears have to defend against one of the better players in the league, Cam Newton. Granted, Newton hasn’t been doing as well as last year, but he’s still a threat both running and passing the football.
When the Bears played against him last year, they did a good job of keeping him contained and not letting him run wild on their defense. That was before the Bears had the stellar pass rush that they have now, so things might be even better when they face Newton this Sunday.
The pass rush has to get to Newton to throw him off of his game and keep him from completing passes down the field. The rush has had a lot to do with the success that the Bears have had against opponents and should be the reason why they are able to take care of Newton and the Panthers' offense in this game.
Newton is a threat to run the football often, but the Bears have been able to take care of the running game well this season and should be able to contain Newton, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, along with safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright, have been playing the run very well—teams just can’t run on the Bears. So the Bears need to be sure that they continue this against the Panthers and stop the run.
When it comes to the Panthers' receivers, the one who stands out the most is Steve Smith. Smith still has what it takes to be a dangerous weapon for Carolina and the Bears will pay special attention to him this week. Look for Charles Tillman to be shadowing Smith wherever he goes making sure that he doesn’t beat the Bears. The Bears have to be wary of Carolina’s passing game because it can be explosive at times.
The Final Word
Cutler’s rib soreness will be the talk of the town this week and hopes are that it’s not that serious and that it won’t affect his on the field play that much. The Bears need Cutler to be on top of his game in order to beat the Panthers, but also to beat some of the tough teams they have coming up on the schedule the rest of this season, so his health is an important factor. Keep an eye on the news coming out about him during the week.
The running game is going to have to get going to help take some of the pressure off of Cutler, especially if he’s suffering as a result of his rib issue. Look for the Bears to try to mount a solid rushing attack in this game to take some of the heat off of Cutler and control the ball and the clock.
When it comes to defending against the Panthers' triple option offense, speed is important and the Bears have plenty of speed on defense to counteract what the Panthers are going to throw at them. Chicago should be able to take care of Newton the way that other teams have been able to take care of him and not allow him to gain the kind of yards that he did against teams last season. The Bears' defense will surely be up to the task in this game and will prevent Newton from having a big game.
Shutting down the run will help the Bears' defense out immensely in this game and the Bears should be able to shut down the Panthers' rushing attack. It hasn’t been doing that well heading into this game and the Panthers should continue to struggle running the ball against the Bears this Sunday.
Special teams are always a factor with the Bears and with Hester involved anything could happen. Hester has been due to break a long one for a while now. Will this game finally be the one where he breaks a long punt or kickoff return and helps the Bears score?
Chicago 24 Carolina 13