The Chicago Bears couldn’t afford a slip up on Sunday in what was considered a very winnable game against the Carolina Panthers.
But what seemed to be an easy game on paper turned out to be a dogfight for the Bears in the end.
It was nice to see quarterback Jay Cutler put his team on his back in the final two minutes. It was also fitting for Robbie Gould to nail a 41-yard field goal in the closing minutes to win the game for the Bears.
A big reason why the 23-22 win happened was because of Cutler and his offensive line stepping up.
After getting sacked six times in the first half, losing two fumbles and tossing one interception in the first half, he looked comfortable in and out of the pocket.
He completed 12 of 14 passes in the fourth quarter and his most impressive pass was to tight end Kellen Davis, who reeled in his second touchdown reception of the season to make the 19-14 with 6:52 left in the final quarter.
Davis was left open and went over safety Charles Godfrey to reel in the bullet from Cutler. He now has 11 career touchdown receptions, which ranks him fifth in franchise history.
He has 38 career receptions, 11 of those receptions for touchdowns. The Bears need to get him the ball more often because he simply makes plays in the redzone with his 6’7″ frame.
Tight end Matt Spaeth looked pretty weak dropping two very catchable balls, so maybe some other tight ends deserve a chance to make plays.
Kyle Adams and Evan Rodriguez are two young tight ends that could earn some playing time. Obviously blocking up front was very important on Sunday as the offensive line struggled mightily early on.
The holes were there in the running game as running back Matt Forte carried the ball 15 times for 70 yards and a touchdown. He went untouched on a 13-yard into the endzone to put the Bears up 7-0 halfway through the first quarter.
The Bears need to learn from a close game like this. They just need to build off this and keep their winning streak going because the tough games are coming.
They play Minnesota twice, Green Bay and Detroit again and battle NFC elites San Francisco and Houston in the coming weeks. They also go up against Arizona and Seattle later on this season.
Upon Further Review:
Some of the calls by Ed Hochuli and his crew were very questionable.
The first came when Chris Conte shouldered Panthers wideout Brandon LaFell. LaFell stayed down and the referees proceeded to throw a flag for helmet-to-helmet contact.
I can’t disagree more with this call. There was nothing Conte could do to avoid LaFell. Plus he didn’t lead with his helmet nor did he hit him with his helmet. It was clearly Conte’s shoulder that hit LaFell.
The second bad call came when Israel Idonije was coming off the edge and was clearly being held. He was then thrown into Cam Newton’s legs and the referees proceeded to throw a flag for roughing the passer.
Again, this was an awful call. Idonije was first off being held and then he really couldn’t control himself as he was thrown into Newton’s lower body. I understand the league needs to protect quarterbacks, but that call was just plain bad.
The third bad call that was noticeable was on the final drive by the Bears’ offense. Earl Bennett was speared by Panthers cornerback Josh Norman and no call was made. Bennett came up in pain and said after the game that he “got the wind knocked out of him.”
If the referees are out there to protect players specifically quarterbacks and helmet-to-helmet calls then why not call a spear to the chest in a crucial part of the game.
The Bears racked up five penalties for 40 yards on Sunday. They rank ninth in the league with 51 penalties. They certainly need to improve in that category a bit.
Defensive tackle Nate Collins was active for the first time this season. DT Amobi Okoye was inactive (knee). Collins racked up three tackles as he played he key part in the defensive line rotation.
Defensive end Julius Peppers racked up two sacks on Sunday. He now has a team leading five and half sacks. He has recorded a sack against 26 of the 32 NFL teams. One of the teams that has shut him out is Houston, who the Bears host in two weeks.
Kicker Robbie Gould booted his 10th game winning field goal in the fourth quarter or overtime. It was his first since he booted one to beat the Green Bay Packers in 2010.
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera clearly shied away from kicking off to Devin Hester as Hester netted just 11 yards on two punt returns.
“He said, ‘I know what type of player you are and I hate to give the ball to you in a crunch-time situation. That’s all I am going to say,’” Hester said about Panthers coach Ron Rivera via Chicagotribune.com.
The Bears have this week to prepare for the 3-5 Tennessee Titans, who have been much improved under quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.