The Bears shook off a disastrous loss to the Giants with a 23-6 win in Charlotte on Sunday over a struggling Carolina Panthers team. Todd Collins was a trainwreck, but the Bears won with a mixture of consistent rushing, defense and special teams.
Chicago found its rushing attack in the first quarter. After a 62-yard kick-off return from Danieal Manning, Forte rushed for 33 yards in the opening drive, topping it off with an 18-yard touchdown run. The next drive followed the same pattern, with a 37-yard return from Manning, and Forte busting loose for a 68-yard touchdown run. By the end of the first quarter, Forte had 101 yards.
Julius Peppers enjoyed a happy return to his former home, with a stellar defensive performance that included an interception that turned into a Bears field goal. Peppers -- using the basketball skills he honed at the University of North Carolina -- tipped a Clausen pass into the air, then caught it while on his knees.
That doesn't mean the game was played perfectly. With Jay Cutler out because of a concussion, the Bears started Collins, who was downright horrible. His numbers are so bad that they seem fake. He finished the game 6-for-16 for 32 yards, four interceptions, two sacks, and a quarterback rating of 6.3. He was pulled in the fourth quarter for Caleb Hanie, who had the good sense to rely on mostly handoffs and screen passes.
But as is the tradition with Bears teams, the defense made up for a woefully inadequate quarterback, finishing the game with five sacks. Lance Briggs, who left the game early after an ankle injury, had four tackles and a sack. Israel Idonije, who's enjoying more playing time with the absence of Mark Anderson, who was traded, notched three sacks. The Bears defense kept Clausen, a rookie quarterback from Notre Dame, on his heels all afternoon long. The Panthers only points came from field goals.
Robbie Gould made a late, 53-yard field goal, breaking his own record. Though Gould is accurate and reliable, he does not often break 50 yards on his field goal attempts. This is only the third 50+ FG of his career.
Though the Panthers might be the worst team in the league, a win like this still helps the Bears. Their running game finally started to gel, and the defense played brilliantly. Hopefully, the momentum will carry over into next week's game against Seattle.