It seemed the Bears were in hibernation for almost three quarters of the game Sunday night, the way they were playing against a much lesser Carolina team. Even the Soldier Field crowd was quiet and uneasy until Bears cornerback Tim Jennings snatched a pass from Carolina Quarterback Cam Newton and ran it back for a score to finally give the Bears a lead in the fourth quarter. That lead didn’t last; the Panthers didn’t lie down as their kicker Justin Medlock hit his fifth field goal of the game. Then it was a moment of redemption for Bears kicker Robbie Gould: He had missed a 33-yard field goal, but with seconds left, he nailed a 41-yarder to give the Bears a 23-22 win.
The numbers game
If you look at the stats (the Bears players may not want to) this game was clearly a win-by-the-numbers for the Panthers: Newton threw for more than 300 yards. The time of possession was so lopsided, with the Panthers offense on the field over 36 minutes. The one area the Bears had a clear advantage on was field position; Carolina head coach Ron Rivera, for some reason, squibbed his kick offs. You could say to keep out of Devin Hester’s hands but it was a dangerous idea that the Bears did not take advantage of most of the game.
The turning point
Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler had negative receiving yards until late in the third quarter, when Earl Bennett caught back-to-back receptions. The crowd finally got interested, only to have that drive end in a missed field goal. In the fourth quarter, a shanked punt by Carolina finally allowed the Bears to put together a drive that ended with a Cutler to Tight-end Kellen Davis 12-yard touchdown (yes — the Bears do have tight ends). On the Panthers very next possession — and the first play of the drive — the Bears finally got the play of the day. Tim Jennings grabbed his second interception of the afternoon and ran into the endzone, giving the Bears a 20-19 lead, they missed the two-point conversion.
The key players
After the game several Bears players were singing the praises of Jennings’ interception, especially from the offense. “Anytime the defense scores it’s big, we fed off it,” said Bears receiver Earl Bennett. The Bears defense has now scored a team record six times on turnovers. Jennings was given a game ball by Coach Lovie Smith. Besides the two interceptions, the Bears cornerback was in a battle all game with the Panthers best receiver, Steve Smith.
The Bears offensive line was, well, offensive again. They gave up six sacks in the first half and were not in sync until the fourth quarter, especially when they drove downfield the last 2:27 of the game, allowing Robbie Gould the redeeming game-winner. The Bears kicker was happy, but mostly relieved. “The guys did an awesome job fighting the whole way to give us an opportunity to win,” said Gould. “It would have been a bummer if [we] missed the second one.”
Getting away with a “W”
The real bummer for the Bears would have been to lose this game — especially since the Panthers are now 1-6. Bears fans were not happy during the game; in fact, at times they booed and Jay Cutler even called it a “boo-worthy” game. It was a win, though. Ugly, but still a win. This week the Bears better figure out how to play with a better sense of urgency early, rather than late. They go on the road to Tennessee and come-backs are harder away from home.