Everything you need to know about the Bears-Panthers game transpired in an eventful first quarter, when the Bears jumped out to a 17-3 lead. The remaining three quarters were about what you’d expect when you had two good defenses facing an opposing 39-year-old career backup QB (Todd Collins) and a rookie signal caller (Jimmy Clausen).
With their 23-6 win over the Panthers, the 4-1 Bears will head into the season’s sixth week with a one-game lead over the Packers (3-2), who lost in overtime to the Redskins. With Jay Cutler on the mend from last week’s concussion, Matt Forte shouldered the offensive load for the Bears, rushing for a career-high 166 yards, including a career-long 68-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
With a youthful right-side of the offensive line manned by G Edwin Williams and rookie tackle J’Marcus Webb, the Bears took the opening drive only 38 yards for touchdown drive, thanks to a long Danieal Manning kickoff return. The opening march ended in Forte’s first rushing TD of the season – an 18-yarder.
The Panthers responded going 55 yards on 8 plays – all rushes by DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart – but settled for a 24-yard John Kasay field goal. On the Bears’ ensuing series, Forte busted off the longest TD run of his 3-year career.
Forte took a Todd Collins handoff and raced 68 yards for a TD that gave the Bears an early 14-3. That would be all the points the Bears would need to tame the rookie-led Panther offense that was missing star WR, Steve Smith.
The first three drives of the game produced 17 points but only one pass play. After his first two series, Forte had already amassed 101 yards on 4 carries – the perfect start for a Bears offense that was reeling after last week’s 3-point, 110-yard, 10-sack allowed effort vs. the Giants last week.
On the Panthers second possession, their former star Julius Peppers announced his presence with a mind-blowing interception. Rushing hard from the edge, Peppers hurdled Carolina’s tackle to make a leaping deflection of a Clausen pass into the flat. After falling to the ground, Peppers laid out to catch his own deflection from his knees, setting the Bears offense up with a short field.
The INT led to a 28-yard Robbie Gould field goal to give the Bears a 17-3 lead.
After stopping the Panthers again, Devin Hester returned a Panther punt 49 yards to the Carolina 9-yardline. On the next play, it appeared Chester Taylor scored, but a replay ruled him down at the one. Then once again, in what are quickly becoming maddening goalline situations, Collins threw an interception right into the hands of Panther’s DE Charles Johnson. The INT would be a sign of things to come…for both teams.
Over the remainder of the game, the teams combined for 5 more INTs, 3 more by Collins and two by Clausen. And Israel Idonije did his best to outshine Peppers on his return to Carolina by recording 3 sacks. Pisa and Briggs also recorded a sack apiece for the Bears defense.
But it was a solid day by the Bears offensive line, who allowed only 3 sacks and 218 rushing yards. It didn’t matter how the Bears got it done – without their franchise QB, Lovie’s boys just needed to get out of town with a “W.”
And thanks to the Redskins, the Bears will leave the weekend back in sole position of first place in the North.
Strictly business: Julius came home to win, and did just that