Carolina Panthers vs. Chicago Bears: Lessons Learned from Bears' 23-22 Win
It must be Halloween season, because the Bears scared the hell out of us on Sunday. They almost lost a game they certainly should have dominated, but Robbie Gould kicked a game-winning 41-yard field goal as time expired to narrowly edge a bad Carolina team, 23-22.
But a win is a win, as they say. The Bears improved to 6-1 and hopefully learned a lesson that will help get them through another supposedly easy win against Tennessee next week.
The NFL is a strange place and anything can happen. So the Bears can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing they were fortunate to win this one.
Meanwhile, what else have we learned from this game? Let's get to it.
Offense has been anemic
Until the Bears scored that first TD in the fourth quarter, they had scored just one offensive touchdown over their last 23 drives covering seven quarters. This supposedly much-improved offense has been living on the coattails of the defense.
The Bears had only 210 yards of total offense on Sunday. Cutler was especially bad until the fourth quarter. He lost two fumbles but came up big when it counted, directing the winning drive that resulted in that Robbie Gould field goal.
In total, he finished 19-of-28 for 186 yards, with one TD and one interception and a QB rating of 83.3.
But once again, the defense and special teams saved the Bears offense from themselves.
Tice's play-calling in question
I realize the Bears were playing from behind, but not by that much, so why weren't they running the ball more? Matt Forte was averaging 6.4 yards per attempt, yet he rushed only 10 times through three quarters.
Cutler continued to throw the ball and was ineffective, plus he had receivers who couldn't catch the ball. Additionally, the offensive line wasn't giving him time to throw.
Yes, Cutler forced some throws and held the ball too long—nothing new here—so why not help him out by running the ball more?
Forte had 15 carries and touched the ball 20 times. that has to increase, especially when the average run was 4.7 yards.
In the end, it didn't matter, but it almost cost the Bears the ballgame.
Need to improve talent at the tight end position
It's becoming increasingly clear that the Bears need to upgrade at the tight end position. Matt Speath cannot catch the football—he is known for his blocking—yet the Bears run him out there as a receiver at times.
Kellen Davis did score a TD in the fourth quarter, but the Bears either do not trust him (only one target all day) or he can't get open enough.
While the rest of the NFL is hot on the trend of using the TE position as a threat, the Bears continue to live in the past.
Hey, I thought Mike Martz had left! Maybe things will get better when Evan Rodriguez develops.
Where was Earl Bennett in first three quarters?
Bennett's first catch came late in the third quarter, then the Bears completed another one to him right after that. It's as if they forgot about him and when he caught a pass, they went, "Hey, maybe we can throw the football to that guy!"
So much was said about how big it would be for Cutler to have Bennett back, and how much chemistry the two have since they played college ball together, so why wasn't he part of the game plan?
Panthers squibbed to keep the ball away from Devin Hester, but the Bears couldn't capitalize
Last time the two teams faced each other, Hester had a 69-yard punt return for a TD and another long kick return, so this time the Panthers kicked it away from him. This created terrific field position for Chicago, but they couldn't take advantage.
The average field position for the Bears was their own 37 yard line. That is considered excellent.
Justin Medlock had himself a game
Coming into the game, the Panthers had kicked only two field goals, yet Medlock went a perfect 5-for-5 on a windy day at Soldier Field.
You have to give the man his props for a game like that, even though it was the Bears' kicker that ended up taking the glory.
Tim Jennings has become a ball hawk
Jennings has always been a decent cover corner and a solid tackler, as he is especially strong for his size. But Lovie Smith has had periods of time when he's questioned No. 26 because of his lack of ball skills.
Well, all that has changed, at least so far this season. Jennings secured his league-leading fifth and sixth interceptions on Sunday, so you can add "ball hawk" to his impressive skill set.
Jennings has likely earned a spot in the Pro Bowl. In fact, the Bears could have both of their corners starting in the Pro Bowl. Jennings is in the running for defensive MVP too.
Carolina controlled lines of scrimmage
The Panthers dominated both sides of the football and thus controlled the clock. They ran 77 plays to the Bears' 53. They had 416 total yards to Chicago's 210. They were 10-of-19 on third down, while the Bears were only 2-of-8.
Time of possession was all in Carolina's favor. They held the ball for 36:38, while the Bears had the ball for 23:22.
Hey, 23:22? Could that be an omen? Spooky...
Robbie Gould in a slump? Nah!
For consecutive weeks, Gould has missed a field goal after being perfect all season. Perhaps it isn't fair to hold him to such a high standard, but it's his own fault for having been so reliable.
But there he was, as good as Gould, hitting the game-winner. That's all that really matters.
Brandon Marshall hurts his ankle
The Bears had better hope the injury isn't too serious or the already anemic offense would be in serious trouble. Although he did come back and performed well on the last drive of the game, it was apparent he was still favoring the injury.
No need to panic...Yet.
Just because the Bears almost lost a game they should have won is no reason for Bears fans to hang out on a ledge contemplating their existence. Look, the NFL is a strange place where anything can happen on a given weekend.
Still, the performance should quiet the premature talk of a Super Bowl, at least for the time being. With a 6-1 record, the Bears are in first place in the NFL North, so the playoffs are probably going to happen. But one must be concerned about a team that has played only one really good opponent and lost that game (vs. the Packers).
Fortunately for Chicago, they get to (hopefully) bounce back strong against a Tennessee team that they should beat next week. The real test will be back-to-back contests against Houston and San Francisco.
Again, it may be a cliche, but a win is a win. We'll take it.
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