Bears Defense Mauls Bridgewater, Panthers En Route to Victory
CHARLOTTE, NC - Things got off to a bit of a rough start for the Carolina Panthers offense as Mike Davis was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on the first play of the game followed by Teddy Bridgewater getting sacked inside the one and then a deflected ball that resulted in an interception by Tashaun Gipson Sr., giving the Bears tremendous field position right out of the gate.
Nick Foles connected with rookie tight end Cole Kmet on 3rd down for a nine yard touchdown pass to give Chicago an early 7-0 edge.
The biggest storyline coming into this game was how the Panthers were going to try and solve their red zone issues against the best red zone defense in the NFL. Following the Chicago touchdown, Carolina moved the ball deep into the red zone thanks to a couple of receptions from DJ Moore and the legs of Teddy Bridgewater to keep the drive alive. Chicago's pressure up front and smothering coverage in the back end eliminated any chance of a touchdown, so the Panthers had to settle for a 21-yard chip shot from Joey Slye.
Carolina's red zone woes would continue despite getting some help from the Bears jumping offsides on 4th and short. Three plays following the automatic first down, Matt Rhule had to trot Slye back on for a 20-yard field goal, which made it a 10-6 score with roughly two minutes to go in the first half.
Chicago operated their two minute offense almost perfectly as they were able to march right up the field and get into field goal range for Cairo Santos to knock in a 55 yarder with just seconds on the clock. Panthers defensive coordinator Phil Snow played conservative on the final drive of the first half and dropped 7-8 guys every snap and was okay with Foles beating them with short completions as long as they didn't let one bust loose. Carolina's defense finished the drive strong applying some pressure on Foles and safety Tre Boston nearly reeled in an interception.
Chicago led Carolina at the half, 13-6.
The result of the Panthers' opening drive of the 2nd half was the same as their opening drive of the game - a turnover. Running back Mike Davis was carrying the ball a little away from his body and fumbled it, recovered by Eddie Jackson of the Bears. Fortunately for the Carolina offense, the turnover did not hurt them as Nick Foles was intercepted by rookie Jeremy Chinn on the first play, giving the ball right back to Carolina.
Teddy Bridgewater found a diving Robby Anderson down the field on a 39-yard catch, which was arguably the play of the game for the Panthers. The offense stalled out once again and this time came up empty as Slye missed a 54-yard field goal attempt.
Chicago took advantage of the good field position and was able to punch in a QB sneak from Nick Foles to extend the lead out to 20-6. That lead however, did not last very long after a rather quick nine play drive that was led by the rushing attack of Mike Davis. Teddy Bridgewater took a shot down field to DJ Moore which drew a pass interference flag to set the Panthers up shop inside the five. Davis pounded in his 2nd rushing touchdown of the season from just one yard out to get the Panthers right back into the game, trailing by just six.
Foles did his thing again leading the Bears down the field and delivered a beautiful strike to Allen Robinson and Panthers defensive lineman was called for roughing the passer on that play which tacked on extra yardage. Carolina's defense needed to get a stop to keep things within reach and they got it after Foles misfired a throw short of the sticks. Santos connected from 31 yards to add three to the Bears' lead.
Although he didn't have his best day, QB Teddy Bridgewater kept the Panthers hanging around. He hit DJ Moore deep for a 38-yard pass to help get Carolina on the move and back into field goal range. Slye hit his third field goal of the afternoon to get it back to a one score game, 23-16.
Carolina's defense played big in the latter half of the fourth quarter getting a key third down stop to give the offense one final shot to tie the game up. On the first play of the drive, Bridgewater forced the ball into coverage and was intercepted by DeAndre Houston-Carson, which would be the final dagger. The Bears came away victorious 23-16.
Carolina now moves to 3-3 on the season and will travel to New Orleans next week to take on the Saints.
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