The Chicago Bears won another close game, this time beating the Carolina Panthers, running their record to 5-1. Despite the big win, questions still surround the offense, keeping them from being considered true contenders.
The Chicago Bears sure don’t like to make things easy. After playing two of the best defenses in the NFL in consecutive weeks, they finally had a favorable matchup against a Carolina Panthers defense that wasn’t exactly scary. The Bears led from the start, never relinquishing the lead, and won the game 23-16, but questions still linger about their offense.
It looked like the Panthers were in for a long day from the start of the game. A penalty on the kickoff had Carolina start the opening drive from their own 10. They lost a yard on their first play, almost had a safety when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater barely got the ball out of the end zone after a sack, then threw the ball to safety Tashaun Gipson. The Bears offense started their day with the ball on the Carolina seven yard line.
The Panthers regrouped and marched 72-yards down the field. However, the Bears defense, which ranks number one in red zone touchdowns allowed, again bent but didn’t break, and gave up a 21-yard field goal. After that quick start, that would be all the scoring n the first quarter.
In the second quarter, both team’s defenses hung tight and they traded field goals. Joey Slye hit a 20-yarder after the Bears defense again hung tough in the red zone. Meanwhile, Cairo Santos hit two of them, one from 31 yards and the other a career-high 55-yard bomb.
Both defenses dominated in the third quarter
There was some craziness in the third quarter. Both defenses did a great job of handling the offenses and causing turnovers. In fact, there was a series in which the Bears forced a fumble and recovered it. On the Bears’ first play, Foles threw an interception. On the Panthers’ first play after that, it appeared that safety Eddie Jackson had a pick-six. Cornerback Kyle Fuller was called for pass interference, though. It was a dubious call, however, as the same thing happened earlier on a throw to Allen Robinson, but the officials didn’t make the call then. Fuller was going for the ball yet the play was nullified.
One good note for the Bears was a touchdown late in the quarter. That score was the first time they did so in the third quarter all season.
Early in the fourth quarter, both teams hit field goals to make the score 23-16. The Panthers were marching down the field again as time progressed but ended up failing to convert on fourth down when D.J. Moore could not hold onto a Bridgewater pass.
Of course, the Chicago Bears being the Chicago Bears, they couldn’t just chew up the clock and seal the game. They had a three-and-out that took just 15 seconds. To make matters worse, head coach Matt Nagy again missed an opportunity to run the ball and force the opponent to use up the last timeout. On third-and-two, Nagy called for a pass that went incomplete, stopping the clock and letting the Panthers save their final timeout. It didn’t matter, however, as the Bears defense sealed the game with an interception on the first play of the drive.
Questions still remain about the offense
Despite the win, questions still remain surrounding the offense. The Panthers rank near the bottom in all the rush defense categories, yet the Bears couldn’t take advantage of that. They ran a little better than they did in the previous two weeks against the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they still only averaged 2.5 yards per run. Additionally, Nagy forgot about the run in the first half, only calling seven of them. Then there was that mess near the end of the game.
For some reason, Nagy is unable or unwilling to call an effective running game plan. He’s much too concerned with having his quarterback throw the ball constantly. Foles threw the ball 39 times. Montgomery carried the ball just seven times in the first half. Without getting touches, Montgomery cannot get into any rhythm. Furthermore, the offensive line cannot get into that same rhythm.
Also, he refuses to use the run to seal the game. On the third down in the fourth quarter, if Montgomery gets the first down the game is over. Even if he doesn’t get it, the Panthers have to use their last timeout and they start their final drive without any timeouts.
Without an effective run game, all the pressure is put on Foles’ shoulders to make plays. This is why it’s so difficult for the Bears to have comfortable leads and win games without so much drama. It’s a grind every week and eventually, it catches up. That is the main reason the national media still doesn’t take Chicago as a serious title contender even though they are in first place in the NFC North all by themselves. Once they figure out that running game, however, watch out for the Chicago Bears.