Julius Peppers, Matt Forte Help Chicago Bears Top Carolina Panthers, 23-6
Jay Cutler wasn't there. Todd Collins was, and he was terrible. Luckily for the Chicago Bears, they had third-year running back Matt Forte, as well as Julius Peppers, who made his return to Carolina in a 23-6 win.
Peppers got many boos, especially after making a very athletic interception to break up a screen pass.
Collins, who was starting in place of Cutler after his concussion from the New York Giants game, threw four interceptions. He was 6-of-16 for 32 yards along with a 6.2 quarterback rating. Caleb Hanie played a bit in the game, going 2-of-3 for 19 yards with an 84 rating.
Despite the miserable passing game, the rushing game of Forte and a defense led by Peppers helped Chicago improve to 4-1 over the 0-5 Panthers.
"I think it speaks for itself," Peppers said. "I was able to get a hand on the ball and slapped it into the air and I came down with it. The celebration was self-explanatory."
Forte had 166 yards on 22 carries along with two touchdowns as the Bears bounced back, providing an ugly loss to the Panthers after coming off an ugly loss to the Giants.
Jimmy Clausen quarterbacked the Panthers, going 9-of-22 for 61 yards and an interception after Matt Moore struggled and threw two early picks. The Panthers are the lowest-scoring team in the league. They showed that today, having 147 yards and two field goals.
"You're not going to go from a rookie quarterback to an All-Pro quarterback in one week or a few games or a season," Clausen said. "It's just a progression that you've got to go through."
Peppers signed a huge deal with the Bears and brought revenge on the Panthers after years of contract troubles.
"I loved it. I'm (in Chicago) now," Peppers said. "You see the shirt. I'm not for the home team, so that's what I expected."
The Panthers were without their star wide receiver, Steve Smith. Carolina was the first NFL team since 1999 to start two rookie players at quarterback and wide receiver.
Israel Idonije played well for Chicago, providing three sacks out of the Chicago's five. The Bears also let the Lance Briggs injury fade away from them in their memory, as the defense still produced.
"Julius was trying to be low-key as much as possible, but when you come home, it's always exciting," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He has a lot of fans here and a lot of people saw him grow up from a young kid to the guy he is today. To come back with another team and win the football game and let everyone see how well you are doing is big."
Forte had 100 yards before the second quarter even started. "It made it an easier offensive game for us to run the ball like that first," Forte said.
Cutler will be back by next week against Seattle, while the Panthers will have a bye week. The Panthers look to fix themselves with an extra week to prepare against the 49ers. They are relieved that Peppers won't be back to play the Panthers again this season.
"Quick screens to his side are not recommended," head coach John Fox said.
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