Opponent: Carolina Panthers
Minnesota Vikings 5-3
Green Bay Packers 5-3
Detroit Lions 3-4
Well...it was pretty ugly, but it was a win in the end. With that the Bears move to 6-1 and remain at the top of the NFC North. The Packers and Lions both won this weekend, and the Vikings lost surprisingly to the now 3-4 Buccaneers. As they say, "any given Sunday."
Other than an early drive that resulted in a Matt Forte touchdown, the first 3 1/2 quarters were just plain ugly. We had great starting field position all game and did absolutely nothing with it. We were only 2/8 for third downs. That's abysmal. Cutler needs to learn that not every play has to have positive yards. He fumbled the ball twice and both times were because he held the ball too long. He could have thrown it away instead of taking the sack. Those were 2 of the 6 sacks he took in the first half. However, it's not all on Jay. While he did have a terrible game, I still believe it starts with the play calling. The stats show that we had 28 passing attempts, but those 6 sacks came on passing plays. In addition, Cutler ran for 4 yards on what was supposed to be a passing play. That brings the total up to 35 passing plays called. On the running side of the game, there were 18 rushes when you subtract Jay's run. This offense functions well when we run the ball well which opens up man to man coverage for our receivers and allows us to run effective play action passes. When Mike Tice calls 35 passing plays to only 18 rushing plays, that doesn't work. Matt Forte was averaging 4.7 yards per carry. His longest rush was for 16 yards so it's not like he had a 40+ yard run to inflate those numbers. Why did he only get 15 carries all game? We had several 3 and outs where they were all pass plays called and for a team that thrives when the run game gets going well, that's just inexcusable. Especially with the field position we had.
But, like I said, it was a win. There wasn't a single sack or turnover in the second half and in the 4th quarter, the offense finally got rolling. Down by 12 points, Cutler drove down the field and threw a TD to the tight end, Kellen Davis. With just over 2 minutes left and down by 2, we drove down the field to set up a game winning 41 yard field goal.
Surprisingly, the defense was pretty ugly for the first 3 quarters as well. They didn't give up too many big plays and the only TD that Carolina had was lucky. Cam Newton fumbled on his way into the end zone and Carolina was fortunate enough to recover for a touchdown. So for the most part they played their typical bend but don't break strategy, but where they really struggled was on 3rd downs. Carolina completed several 3rd and long situations. They were 10/19 on third down. Normally the Bears D only allows about 25% on third downs, not 50%. We didn't get nearly enough pressure on the quarterback.
Once again, it was a win and the D did their part. After the Kellen Davis touchdown, Tim Jennings intercepted a throw and ran it back 25 yards for a touchdown. With the Bears up by 1, we held the Panthers to a field goal with just over 2 minutes left to play. They were in the red zone several times, but had to settle for only one TD and 5 field goals.
This part of the game was...confusing to say the least. On punts and kickoffs, the Panthers refused to kick to Hester. This isn't that surprising, but the way they did it was. On kickoffs, they basically did an onside kick just a little further down the field. What this did was give us the ball consistently on the 40 yard line instead of the 20. Unfortunately the offense didn't do anything with that great position, but that can't be blamed on special teams. Robbie Gould missed a 33 yard field goal. Take a minute to let that sink in. He's one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL and he missed a short field goal. The wind had been blowing all day and he accounted for it when it had stopped blowing. He took full blame for it since he kicked it exactly how he meant to, he just misjudged the wind at the time. I love the quote from his teammate, Eric Weems. He said, "All you did now was set yourself up to make the game-winner. So when the game-winner comes, hey, hold your head up and make it." And you know what? He did. 4 seconds left on the clock and he nailed a 41 yard field goal for the win.
It was a horrible game through most of 3 1/2 quarters in all phases, but the whole team pulled together at the end and pulled out the win. Stressful, but a win. I'll take it.