By now, Cecil had awoken from his slumber on my shins and allowed me some freedom to finally move.
The Panthers came out of halftime with a 13-7 advantage but the Bears had the opening kickoff coming and got great field position to start the half. On that possession, Cutler’s 3rd-down pass was deflected at the line by Frank Alexander, forcing Hester to come back for a diving catch short of the first down. There was a holding penalty on the Bears on the play in any case, which was of course declined to bring up 4th down.
The Bears got the punt downed inside the 5 yard line when Captain Munnerlyn failed to fight through the Chicago Mob to make a fair catch before the ball hit the ground, backing up the Carolina offense for their first possession of the second half.
An aggressive play call got the ball to Steve Smith at the 24 before Jonathan Stewart got stuffed at the line again on the next play. Ben Hartsock, playing despite being injured, caught his first pass of the season on a double tight-end set for 25 yards. On the next play, DeAngelo tripped over his own feet to lose a yard.
Clearly, the running game still needs work, but they’ve at LEAST DITCHED THE STUPID READ-OPTION!
On third and ten, Newton hit a Mike Tolbert for a short pass as Tolbert showed why he was given so much money. He showed some very quick feet reminiscent of “The Bus” Jerome Bettis while making people miss and rumbling forward for a 15-yard gain. A good run on the left side by DeAngelo Williams got them another first down to the 20. Next, it gets scary.
Newton fired a missile for Brandono LaFell, who was hit in the head by Chris Conte even after the pass bounced off his hands. Yes, it was a very hard pass and difficult to handle, and Conte showed no respect, lowering his shoulder and forearm to lay the lumber on him.
Happily, LaFell laid there for a moment before being able to jog off under his own power. The flag for the hit to the head gave them a first down at the 9. Stewart next ran up the middle inside the 5, but the Panthers’ offensive red-zone issues surfaced again as they settled for a field goal.
Panthers 16, Bears 7.
Devin Hester set up another short field, returning the kickoff to the 41 yard line. While the Panthers have had issues in kick-coverage this season, I can’t get on them TOO bad about these returns considering EVERYONE has trouble keeping Devin Hester bottled up in the return game. However, it’s the third return out past the 40 and the coverage SHOULD be somewhat better than it has been.
Devin Hester then dropped a pass on third down, giving their offense a three-and-out. Chicago is most definitely having trouble moving the ball against this, the Panthers’ resurgent defense.
Once again, the Panthers were forced, after a punt, to start inside their own 20. Once again, they moved it out on a 3rd-and-one wiht a 6-yard run against an 8-man front by Cam Newton.
On the next play, Newton threw a 47-yard ball up to Steve Smith down the left sideline. That one was a case of Newton trusting his wideout to elevate and get the jump ball – which is exactly what the cagey veteran did.
Carolina couldn’t move the ball after that, with Newton having consecutive passes being batted down at the line of scrimmage. Justin Medlock hit a 43-yard field goal with 1:30 left in the third quarter, doubling his yearly output in field goals both made and attempted in 3 quarters of one game.
Panthers 19, Bears 7.
This time, Medlock squibbed the kickoff which an up-man took to the 34. Ehhh okay, every yard is a help.
Earl Bennett gave the ears a 24-yard catch and run for the biggest play for the Bears up to this point in the game. Bennett and Cutler were teammates at Vanderbilt and connected on the next play for an 11-yard pass play down to the Panthers’ 33 yard line as the quarter ended.
Cutler was getting hot and hit Brandon Marshall at the Carolina 20 for his 3rd completion in 3 passes on the drive. Forte gained one yard on the ensuing play, but Thomas Davis dragged him down for a loss on a screen play. Then a false start penalty made a third and long a third and longer at the 27. Cutler hit Forte for 12, sending Robbie Gould out for a 33-yard field goal attempt.
He missed it, wide right.
The Panthers had their first 3-and-out of the game when Tolbert the Bowling Ball was stuffed at the line. It took several defenders to keep the light-footed thumper from spinning out and falling forward.
After the booming 6-yard punt by rookie Brad Nortmann, Rivera was thrilled to see the Bears’ offense starting at the Panther 38. Hmm maybe the Browns had the right idea drafting a punter in the 3rd round instead of the 6th like we did. It isn’t like Joe Adams (4th rounder) is doing anything these days.
Cutler hit Brandon Marshall for their first thrid down conversion of the entire game, down to the Carolina 25. Forte got stuffed for a 2-yard run, and aside from a couple of first-down scampers, has largely been ineffective in the running game.
Instead, Cutler hit him on the next play for a 9-yard completion for another first, to the 14 yard line.
On the next play, Cutler fired a strong pass to Kellen Davis for a touchdown that Charles Godfrey couldn’t cover. Chris Godfrey…Charles Godfrey…whatever the man’s name is, he didn’t do his job on that play.
Panthers 19, Bears 14.
Cam Newton then put the Bears ahead, firing a strike to Tim Jennings who took the ball 25 yards for a pick-six. It looked horrible, but Steve Smith slipped on a timing route, leaving Jennings the only person in position to make any play. That’s disheartening as hell….
With a 1-point lead, the Bears went for two. Rookie Josh Norman intercepted it in the corner and returned it over 100 yards for nothing, since you cannot advance a turnover on a conversion attempt in the NFL. The play was dead, but fun to watch, despite the disappointment on the previous play.
Bears 20, Panthers 19.
Now’s the time for Cam to let his great personality out, pick up the team, and go FREAKIN’ score. Touchback on the kickoff, so Cam started their drive on the 20. On third and one, Cam took the ball on a bootleg/keeper on the right side for a 16-yard gain and a much-needed movement of those chains. With under 5 minutes remaining, he brought the Panthers within long field-goal range.
By now, the Panthers had a 3-to-1 yardage advantage and were losing the game.
Rebar (Tolbert) later gained a first on a 3-yard run when needing two. Now, the Panthers were beginning to chew some clock up, causing the Bears to use timeouts with now 2:40 left.
At this point i’m thinking they either need to get a TD however possible, or run the clock down as much as possible while getting a little closer for a 5th FG attempt to get the lead and give the Bears’ offense as little time as possible.
On the next play, Steve Smith JUST missed catching an almost-perfectly-thrown pass for a TD, but he couldn’t quite reach out for it. 6 inches closer to him and he’d have had it. Newton had to throw the ball away on the ensuing play to give them a 4th down and 8 to go, setting up a 45-yard attempt. Game on the line here…and….
Bizarrely enough, the wind pushed the ball right, hitting the right upright, and barely falling over the other side of the crossbar. Ugly? HECK yes. But it scores the same.
Panthers 22, Bears 20….but another kickoff coming and the Bears have been getting GREAT field position on returns and only need a field goal of their own….and the wind is at Chicago’s backs…
Oh, the drama.
FINALLY, the Bears only got out to their own 21 before being clobbered. 2:20 remaining, Bears have one timeout and the two-minute warning.
Cutler hit Forte for a 5-yard pass, then Marshall for 7 for a first down as the 2-minute warning sounded. Then came a 12-yard pass from Earl Bennett and another to Marshall. Only then did Cutler misfire on the SAME pattern a third time to stop the clock with 1:04 left. Marshall hauled in another short pass at the 36 on third down, then another 10-yarder on apparently the exact same pass pattern on every single play this drive.
Forte took an inside handoff down to the 23 yard line, after which Chicago called a timeout to set up Gould’s 41-yard attempt…with the wind behind him.
He nailed the kick for the win, 23-22.
Another heatbreaking loss reminiscent of the Falcons’ game…but at least the Panthers have something to build on. It’s small consolation in such a loss, but they’ve gotta hold their heads high, taking their play into the next game at Washington to face RG3.
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