Lucky for them, they faced a worse team.
Lucky for them, they don’t have to. Lucky for them, the Panthers did more to stop the Panthers than the Bears did. Bad teams make bad mistakes at bad times, and that seemed to be most of the day for Carolina.
Among the largesse the Bears enjoyed, the Panthers missed open receivers at key points, caught two punts inside their 10-yard line and committed a series of penalties to ruin drives. One penalty took them out of field-goal range, another probably turned the game.
Jeremy Shockey appeared to have caught a go-ahead touchdown in the middle of the third quarter, but no. Shockey was called for a weak-looking pass interference penalty.
If the play had stood, the Bears would’ve been down by three without giving you confidence the offense could score against a weak Carolina defense. If the play had stood, Julius Peppers also wouldn’t have had the chance to block a field goal.
Yeah, the Bears did make plays. They made enough to win: Matt Forte rushed for over 200 yards and a touchdown, Devin Hester returned a bad line-drive punt -- another Carolina mistake – for a score, D.J. Moore with a pick six, and Peppers’ blocked field goal.
But this was a game that shouldn't have been competitive after halftime. Problem was, the Bears defense seemed to be waiting for Carolina to do something bad instead of making something good happen itself.
Lovie Smith said the Bears' defense outplayed the Carolina defense. Depends how you look at it. Each team got one takeaway, which seems like a loss for a Bears defense built on winning that specific battle. The Bears got two offensive touchdowns, the Panthers got three. The Panthers amassed 543 yards, the Bears 317. I had the Bears for one three-and-out. Outplayed, I guess, is in the eye of the winning coach.
What I saw was the Bears’ signature Cover-2 defense appear to look unfamiliar with the scheme a lot of the time.
The Bears dared rookie quarterback Cam Newton to throw, but they couldn’t produce pressure with just their front four. Even a rookie quarterback could make plays with a lot of time, and Newton did, along with Bears killer Steve Smith.
If the Bears could’ve just executed their basic defense, then Newton couldn’t have come close to beating them. The Bears' defense shouldn’t have been making bigger mistakes than a rookie quarterback for most of the game. Eventually, the Bears escaped, more the result of Newton’s making a mistake than the Bears’ owning him.
Say this for the Bears, though: On a day when Jay Cutler might as well have been Kyle Orton, they might’ve found their power running game. The line pulled and opened holes, and Forte showed a burst we haven’t always seen, rushing for 205 of the Bears’ 224 yards. He delivered a 46-yarder early and an important 40-yarder late, all of which was needed, if only to keep the defense off the field.
But of course, the offense burned more timeouts because it couldn’t plays in. The Bears were out of timeouts with 6:45 remaining in a one-point game. Can they function like a professional unit, please? This is the NFL, not clown college.
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz uncharacteristically stayed with the run until of course he really needed to, calling two curious pass plays when the Bears needed to run out the clock.
But it’s a win, even if a must-win Sunday almost became a must-fire Monday.