Secondary, special teams receive high marks
October 28, 2012, 6:07 pm
The Panthers, who average 336 yards per game, had put 306 yards and 16 points on the Bears with 6 minutes still to play in the third quarter. On a 90-yard drive from its six-yard line, for example, Carolina converted plays of 18, 25, 15 and 17 yards, and the Panthers had 10 plays of 15 yards or longer.
Carolina, converting just 31.7 percent of its third downs coming in, converted 10 of 19 (53 percent) against the Bears and were never completely slowed down in a game where the Panthers’ offense was on the field more than 30 of the first 45 minutes.
DEFENSIVE LINE D+
Pressure on Cam Newton was virtually non-existent for too much of the game. Julius Peppers got a first-quarter sack and added another in the second plus two QB hits but no other D-lineman was credited with a hit of any kind on the highly mobile Newton.
Henry Melton forced a key third-down throwaway in the second half to end a drive. Shea McClellin registered a tackle for loss and Corey Wootton deflected a pass.
Carolina totaled 119 rushing yards between Newton and the running backs but averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher each had seven tackles, with Urlacher making one for loss in addition to breaking up a pass.
They and Nick Roach were active throughout with early hits on backs, although Newton, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams all had at least one run of 13 yards.
Maybe the Bears should only schedule big receivers. Steve Smith lit up the DB’s for 118 yards and seven catches. His long was 47 and he was missed on throws by Newton on several other routes when he was open.
But Smith didn’t score and Tim Jennings intercepted a Newton pass to Smith in the fourth quarter and returned it for a go-ahead TD, the franchise-record sixth this season. Jennings had a team-high eight tackles, all solo, plus a second interception and three passes broken up.
Run support early was strong from Charles Tillman and Major Wright. Chris Conte, who finished with eight tackles, was beaten badly when he took a poor angle on a 62-yard completion to Brandon LaFell to set up a field goal.
The plan was to emphasize rush lanes by both ends and tackles to contain Newton and be positioned for an anticipated increase in Carolina running the ball. The Panthers did try to balance their run-pass with 41 pass plays and 36 run plays, including five Newton scrambles which are virtually tweeners.
Robbie Gould’s game-winner was the special-teams story of the game. There were several good sidebars, however.
Even if you miss one earlier from 32 yards, when you convert a 41-yard field goal through swirling win as time expires, when a miss means a loss, you get an automatic “A” from CSNChicago.com. Robbie Gould also put all four of his kickoffs too deep to be returned.
Adam Podlesh punted four times. One was fair-caught. The other three were downed. The Panthers had zero return yards for the game.
A unique area to evaluate. Devin Hester came out with a clear plan to be more aggressive and popped an 11-yard punt return early. The Panthers were not going to give him chances to beat them on kickoffs and squibbed every kick. Key for the Bears was handling every one without mishap, contributing to an average starting position of the Chicago 32 after six kickoffs.
The coverage plans were drawn up by somebody. No one had a chance to make a tackle but one reason punts and kicks aren’t returned is because the coverage is too close and Dave Toub units are among the NFL’s best.
Tags: Chicago Bears
, Lance Briggs
, Brian Urlacher
, Nick Roach
, Tim Jennings
, Robbie Gould
, Henry Melton