Oct 21, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (28) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

The game plan to beat Chicago

This week the Panthers are facing a real challenge.They are visiting the Windy city, and once again the Bears are Monsters of the Midway. There is something different about this Bears team, they can score. The defense is just as dangerous as the offense when it comes to putting points on the board. If we were to look at scoring units on teams, whether it be offensive or defensive units, the Bears defense would be a highly ranked unit. They have had an uncanny ability to force turnovers and take them back for scores this season. Ball protection will be crucial for the Panthers Sunday.

Oct 22, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) is sacked by Detroit Lions middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch (55) and outside linebacker Justin Durant (52) during the second quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE


Jay Cutler leads an explosive offense. Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte are 2 of his favorite targets. Anytime either of them has the football they are a real threat to take it to the house. The Bears offense uses a good mix of run and pass, and Forte has had success doing both. Marshall with his size and speed is a tough matchup for most corners in the league.This will be especially true when it comes to the Panthers somewhat diminutive corners. If Chicago’s offense has one weak spot it is their offensive line. This became crystal clear when the Bears played the Packers. Clay Matthews was in the offensive backfield so much that game I thought he had been traded to the Bears and they had moved him to fullback. This is the weakness the Panthers will have to capitalize on if they want to have any chance of winning this game.

Now when the Panthers have the ball they will  be facing the #1 rush defense, the #1 scoring defense, and the #1 defense in forcing turnovers. Sounds really scary does it not. Sometimes numbers can be deceiving. Overall the Bears defense is  ranked 6th which is among the top of the league’s defenses, we haven’t played too many tougher defenses so far this season. Sure the offense has it’s work cut out for them but I believe with a sound game plan we can score on this defense. The Panthers have stated publicly they will be making a serious commitment to run the ball. They will be getting away from the, now ineffective, read option play and getting back to the more traditional style offense. It’s about time! We can also see this by the Panthers naming Stewart the starter this week. He will be more effective out of a more traditional style running attack than Dwill. A real commitment to the run game will prove to be invaluable to Cam. That was the one thing our offense has been lacking this season.

Committing to running the ball will open the passing game. Now I’m not talking about the vertical passing game I mean short crossing patterns. The underneath stuff will be key to bring up the safeties. Once that has been accomplished then we can look to go over the top. But it is vital that we feed Olsen and LaFell early in the contest to draw up Major White and Chris Conte. I personally like the matchup of Smith against either of the Bears corners. “Peanut” Tillman and Tim Jennings will have a difficult time covering Smith due to his quickness. They are good corners like the Seahawks have, but without the skills of Sherman and Browner. When we look back to last season’s trip to Chicago the Panthers had a stellar day offensively. Cam went 22 of 46 for 374 yards and he tossed a touchdown to Olsen. Double trouble combined for 134 yards rushing, and Steve Smith broke bad with 8 receptions for an eye popping 181 yards. Cam and this offense put up 29 points last year and I believe we can do it again. That was against basically the same Bears defense as what we will be facing this week. What lost the game for us last season was the play of our special teams, and Matt Forte’s 205 yards rushing. Cutler had an absolutely abysmal  day offensively. He went 9 for 17 and only threw for 102 yards and he even threw an interception. However with the success the Bears had running the ball, Cutler didn’t need a big day. If we can’t stop Forte then it doesn’t matter what our offense does.

Oct 21, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith (89) reacts on the field. The Cowboys defeated the Panthers 19-14 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

The defensive game plan should focus on penetration. Our defensive line is going to have to get into the Chicago backfield. When Forte is given the ball we must keep the offensive lineman off our linebackers so they can make the tackle on him. That is a key to the game plan as well, tackle Forte on 1st contact. Don’t allow him to get into the 2nd level and break off long runs. When Cutler drops back to pass we MUST pressure him. As we have seen too often our defensive backs can’t cover receivers for more than just a few seconds so we will have to get to Cutler. We need to hit him and knock him down every chance we get to try and frustrate him so he starts trying to force the ball. That will give us a chance for turnovers which will be an important statistic in determining the winner of this game.

Special teams will be a disadvantage for us. The Bears have the greatest return man in the history of the NFL on their team. Knowing this we MUST kick the ball away from Hester EVERY time!!! I cannot stress this point enough. Don’t let him be the difference in this game.

The game on paper looks like a really bad matchup. I believe the Panthers have a good chance in this game. The game plan needs to truly have a commitment to the run, short controlled passes such as underneath crossing routes, and screens to keep the Bears defensive line honest. Defensively pressure has to be our main focus. We must get Cutler out of rhythm, and disrupt the timing of passing plays. When Forte has the ball it’s imperative to bring him down on 1st contact. If we protect the football and execute this game plan, we will pull off the upset. Leaving Chitown with a win will go along way in getting this Panthers team back on track. My prediction: Carolina 23 Chicago 19. Go Panthers!

God Bless!
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Tags: Carolina Panthers Chicago Bears

  • Tom

    This is quite a homer-ish article, which is fine, but I cannot stand the lack of basic research that goes into most posts. Tim Jennings, September’s Defensive Player of the Month, is 5-8″ unless the rest of the league is Filipino I do not think that qualifies as bigger. He also ran a 4.32 40 when he came out of college, which does qualify as quick. None of this is to say that Steve Smith won’t roasts him on the field but just be more accurate, it is not that hard.

  • Dr. Fact Check

    How this moron Mr. Rioliano has a job I can not know. The Bears rank 6th in total Defense, not 16th. Please get the facts straight. The Bears defense is #1 in points allowed, the most important stat. The 21 turnovers they have forced in 6 games are not by accident. Their defense has scored 5 touchdowns as many as Cam newton has thrown all year. The Bears opposing quarterbacks’ rating of 62.4 is also #1 in the league. These facts prove their defense is legit. Mr. Rioliano’s lack of knowledge of easily accessible facts and poor reasoning skills should be a revelation to his employer that he should be sacked immediately.

    • Mr. Riollano

      Dr. Fact Check there is no need to resort to name calling. I did make an error in my “fact checking”. I’m human, it does happen. I can appreciate you pointing out the mistake I made, and even more I appreciate the other stats you shared regarding the Bears defense.It does go to show the Bears do have an impressive defense. However this defense is, for the most part, comprised of the same defenders as last year. The Panthers made a real game out of it last year and I believe if they are able to execute this game plan I have laid out they do have a chance of pulling off the upset. Thank you for bringing to my attention the error I made and please continue to make sure the facts are accurate in any of my articles.

    • Catman

      hmm well what he said about the game turned out to be a LOT closer to the truth than what almost anybody – myself included – had anticipated. I see you haven’t revisited since the game, either. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. You seem to think he was minimizing Chicago’s D when he CORRECTLY pointed out they are #1 in scoring defense and #1 in forcing turnovers. “Doctor,” you’re the one that I see with poor reasoning skills if you beat him over the head regarding the FACT he did say #1 scoring D, #1 forcing turnovers….you call him a moron then regurgitate the same things he already said? I hope your own employer doesn’t fire YOU when you’re not 100% perfect with everything you say or do. I find that most people that anonymously and acrimoniously attack writers have issues with self-esteem. “Oh, I gotta show I know more than this guy, I gotta thump MY chest, I’m sooo smar-ruht” hmm…again, his post was a lot closer to what actually unfolded than your thoughts suggest, Mr. Bright Eyes, and I’ll refund every penny you paid to access this site….

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.burnier Robert Burnier

    I stopped reading as soon as I got to the Bears defense “only” being ranked 16th. I’m sure the Panthers are having no part of such reasoning. If they know what’s good for them they’ll take the Bears more seriously than that if they want to win.

    • Joey Riollano

      Robert I’m sorry you stopped read this article when you got to the Bears defense “only” being ranked 16th. I’m sorry because I was wrong about that. I made a mistake, their defense is ranked 6th overall. I do wish you had continued reading the article but I understand the reason you stopped. I can assure you my next article will be more professional. I do hope you give me another opportunity to gain your interest.

    • Catman

      16th against the pass

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.burnier Robert Burnier

    Depends on who you ask exactly where the Bears D is ranked, but they’re clearly top-tier. Enough said about that.

    Of course its really about match-ups and I think your piece even alludes to them not favoring the Panthers. They better get their house together fast, but I don’t see it. Anythings possible, I guess.

    • Joey Riollano

      Robert thanks for revisiting my article. The Bears defense is among the league leaders in most statistical categories. The Panthers are in desperate need of a win. This season has not gone the way anyone in the organization envisioned it. A win over the Bears would be the first step in salvaging something out of this year.

      When looking at this game objectively there is little hope of a Panthers victory, but I am looking at it from the perspective of a fan. I know we are talented enough a team, we just haven’t played to the level we are capable of.

      Our defense is gonna be key in this game. We have to play better on that side of the ball. I look forward to hearing from you after the game and reading some of what your thoughts are.

      • http://www.facebook.com/robert.burnier Robert Burnier

        Panthers played a good game. Really. They *are* talented. But so are the Bears, plus all the other experience and intangibles that the Panthers seem to lack. Couldn’t close it out. We should also acknowledge that the Bears didn’t play their best at all and gave Carolina a lot of extra chances. Carolina needs to take that step as a team to deliver a cohesive performance for 60 minutes and they’ll probably start winning.

        Some particulars: I think Carolina needs a more honest, balanced NFL offensive playbook, which they started to use against Chicago to some effect. They need one more receiving threat. Defense is good. Defensive coordinator needs to rethink the defensive scheme for the end of games!!

        • Joe Riollano

          Robert I could not agree more with what you said. I don’t think the Bears played poorly, I just think the Panthers came ready to play. It may have surprised the Bears but please don’t take anything away from the Panthers by saying the Bears did not play well. I guess I mean the Bears did not play well but that was because the Panthers were outplaying them for 58:30 of a 60:00 game.

          In game adjustments have been an issue with this team for going on 2 seasons now. I do believe it will be the main reason Rivera will be let go at the end of this season. Its going to be a very interesting offseason for Carolina, alot of reorganization will have to take place. This offseason is going to shape the organization for years to come. I hope the put capable people in positions that will bring the team out of mediocrity and start them on a path of being annual contenders for the super bowl.

          Please continue to read my articles, and leave your comments. I certainly enjoy the competitive banter. Take care and God bless.

  • DL

    Your post compared last years Chicago D as a reason to be optimistic about performance vs this years version. Unfortunately for the Panthers, last year has about as much to do with this year as Peyton Manning has with the Colts.

    This year’s Chicago Bears D is playing at a much higher standard – the names might be similar but the Dline is more dangerous on every down, the safeties are locked in and healthy, and Tillman and Jennings are playing out of their minds. There’s a reason why most teams have abandoned the run early against the Bears – their DT’s and ends are extraordinarily capable of getting into the backfield. They are built to sustain a lead and squeeze opposing offenses until there’s a mistake on the field they can exploit.

    I left out the LB’s because that is an area of vulnerability. The slowest guy on that side right now might be Urlacher, and it’s possible to slip a few plays to exploit that – middle screens with a receiver/back, or quick hits out of the slot, but then you still have to contend with Briggs. There’s also the possibility of trying to wear down the pass rush through a lot of early runs and some no-huddle, but it’ll mean a lot of 3 and outs early and asking Cam to play with control and precision. Not sure if the Panthers have the patience to deal with early frustration.

    It’s really pick your poison at this point.

    • Catman

      Good thread DL. With Shea McClellin playing like a DROY candidate, the line is scary-good. I think we’ll have to try to establish the run, but throw in a few new wrinkles like maybe some “trap”-type plays and maybe throw in one or two “sucker” plays – where a center or guard LETS the guy run over him, but makes sure to tangle his legs so he falls on top of him and can’t make a play. I’d be pulling out all the stops, man, or Carolina loses and loses big. And Cam needs to be PATIENT – How much do you wanna bet DAAA BEARSSSS seal up that deep pass with cover-2 or something and FORCE Cam to make a series of 5-8 yard underneath passes and go long drives to score….

    • Charles Towne Panther

      The Panthers lit up that defense. They should have won the game. But in typical Panther fashion they managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!