I watched this game at home in my easy chair, pinned down by Cecil, my 2 yr-old cat, who decided he was going to sleep on my shins. Being the proud cat parent that I am, I let him. Cat-lovers know where I’m coming from.
Being a cat-lover, I write for my Panthers…and with some of the coverage I’ve seen in the secondary this season, I sometimes wish we’d send people out to talk to farm boys who grew up chasing cats around the barnyard – perhaps they’d be better suited to cover quick receivers in the NFL than some of these college boys we’ve drafted, but that’s a story for the novel I’ll never write.
The Panthers took the opening kickoff and had to punt. The Bears got the ball back and Cutler threw a deep pass that rookie Josh Norman intercepted in a very nice, falling-down, double-clutching interception, but the Panthers couldn’t move the ball out too far from their own 5 and punted.
Devin Hester, the “Most Dangerous Man in the World” in the return game, tried to run east-west to get around the corner, but was tackled in a very nice open-field crushing hit by the newest Panther.
They got the ball at midfield and Matt Forte broke off a good run, tackled by much-maligned safety Haruki Nakamura. An 18-yard pass to Brandon Marshall down to the 15 on the next play put the Bears in the Red Zone. A short flare to Forte gained a few yards before they called a draw that opened up in the middle, allowing Forte an easy touchdown.
Bears 7, Panthers zee-rowwww…..
Carolina started their drive at the 20. On the first play, Newton fired a laser strike to a slanting Brandon LaFell that went for 62 yards. If LaFell had better speed, he’d have easily scorched in for a TD, but he’s more of a possession guy so I don’t fault him there. He’s one of the few bright spots for us this year.
After a holding penalty sent the team back 10 yards, Newton hit Stewart on a swing pass for a few yards and misfired on the next play, a pass where he was under pressure. On 3rd and long, Panther hit Greg Olson in the middle of the field to set up only their third FG attempt all season. Now that is an astounding stat. Medlock drilled it.
Bears 7, Panthers 3.
The Panthers tried an odd-looking semi-onside, semi-squib kick down to the 40, but it was picked up by the Bears. After Forte was stuffed for a short gain, Greg Hardy sacked Jay Cutler to force a 3rd and long. On the next play, Charles Johnson stripped Cutler of the ball and rookie Frank Alexander recovered at the Chicago 16 yard line.
DeAngelo Williams took a Wildcat snap up the middle for 7 yards before the first quarter ended and the teams swapped ends of the field. On the next play, Newton fumbled into the end zone after a first-down run, but Louis Murphy recovered for the TD. Cam jogged off the field without congratulating Murphy, and that’s disturbing. Expect that topic to resurface.
Panthers 10, Bears 7.
The Bears got the ball on their own 22 on the ensuing kickoff and Cutler was sacked for the 4th time of the day overall on third and 7 by Dwan (not Ron) Edwards, forcing a punt.
The Panthers got the ball back at their own 29. After getting a first down, Newton overthrew Steve Smith on a deep ball and had gotten behind the defender, but Tim Jennings had contact with him after 5 yards, giving the Panthers 5 yards and an automatic first down at midfield. Now, on thrid and one, Cam went into the shotgun and fed Jonathan Stewart on an “inside run,” and failing to make the first down.
Folks, it’s EXACTLY this sort of “Spread offense run” that they need to get away from doing!! Rivera left the offense on the field and Newton picked up the first on 4th-and-a-foot, the first 4th down in 5 attempts they’ve had this season.
A screen pass to Stewart gained 15 yards down to the Chicago 23 yard line for another first down. Olsen got a ten-yard catch for a first down shortly afterwards. Newton made another overthrow in the right corner of the endzone on 3rd down and the Panthers had to settle for another field goal after a 17-play drive, but at least they were moving the ball. Their red zone offense hasn’t been good all season, so that’s still an area of concern.
Panthers 13, Bears 7.
Chicago got the touchback and the ball on their own 20, and because of the pressure on Cutler just by the front four of Carolina’s defense, they ran Forte twice for a first down, then began mixing passes in. Only a pass interference penalty on Thomas Davis against Matt Forte on a short arrow route gave the Bears a first down at that point. Davis’ contact WAS within the five-hard “legal” area, but by rule, since the ball was actually in the air, it’s pass interference. However, the Bears stalled out due to stiff Panther pass rush the entire first half. Captain Munnerlyn had been shadowing the much larger Brandon Marshall all day.
Meanwhile, Miami QB Matt Moore, who was in for Ryan Tannehill due to an unknown injury to his knee during the early going in that game, completed a pass to Matt Moore on 3rd and 2 for a 37 yard gain. Just a heads-up that you might want to pay attention on Sportscenter for that one later. Moore is no athlete, so I suspect he caught his own pass batted at the line and had nothing but open field in front of him. Still….37 yards? Definitely need to see that.
Anyway, Foghorn Leghorn rants aside, Newton fired a 14-yard strike on a skinny post to Steve Smith, who got smacked hard by Charles Tillman but hung on. Strong, strong guy is the Mighty Mite. On second down, Newton got hit by ex-Panther Julius Peppers, fumbled, but Silatolu recovered and the Bears declined a face mask penalty by Jordan Gross on the play setting up a third and long. Newton fired another strike, albeit a bit low, caught by Steve Smith, for a first down in the 2-minute drill before the half.
Then came the bad news. Newton tried to throw the ball away to Gregg Olson on the right sideline but was hit. The ball fluttered over, and Olson oddly just stood there, waiting for the ball to come to him but Tim Jennings out-hustled Olson to make the diving interception.
That one’s NOT on Cam. Olson needs to be more aware and GO GET THE THING!! But he didn’t, and the Bears took over with 38 seconds left at their own 45. Cutler hit Marhsall for 11 yards….then got sacked again by Greg Hardy for their 5th sack of the half and Hardy’s third of the game.
With 14 seconds left, the Panthers’ Charles Johnson stripped Cutler of the ball and recovered the fumble to end the threat. Instead of attempting a 51-yard field goal with a green kicker, Newton tried a mini-Hail Mary and sent the pass whizzing through the goalposts to end the half.
The Bears had only 47 total yards and -17 yards passing in the first half.
HALFTIME: Panthers 13, Bears 7….