The Panthers gutted out an ugly victory against the Bears in a way I can't describe yet again. It was ugly that for most of the game the Bears defense destroyed the Panther offense. Turnovers and penalties helped stake the bears to a 17-3 lead. Things seemed dismal at that point but then Jonathan Stewart entered the game. The rookie made his presence felt on several tough, smash-mouth runs that loosened up the Bears pass rush. From there the Panther defense made stand after stand as the offense finally came to life and put up 17 straight unanswered points.
I felt from the beginning the Panthers had the edge in this game based on the QB position. The Bears ran the ball well early mainly with rookie Matt Forte but then had to rely on Orton to win the game. His best chance came on fly pattern to Marty Booker who had Ken Lucas beat for a TD. Lucky for the Panthers he overthrew Booker by a step.
The Panthers on the other hand could move the ball in the first half but then managed to some big runs late by the aforementioned Stewart. Though Jake misfired plenty throughout the game he was dead perfect on a throw down the seam to TE Jeff King that gave the Panthers 1st & goal at the 1.
Panther performances worth talking about:
RB Jonathan Stewart ran for 77 yards and 2 TD's, breaking tackles and trying to run over people. The kid was electric to the Panther offense as things started to go once he got in there.
SS Chris Harris forced yet another fumble by stripping TE Greg Olson after a catch in the flat. Harris had several other big plays and was instrumental in stopping the Bears running game in the second half.
CB Chris Gamble had one of his biggest games as a Panther. He had two passes defensed, 5 tackles and instrumental in stopping the end around runs. He also benefited yet again with a fumble recovery from a Chris Harris strip. Those two got quite a thing working there.
QB Jake Delhomme was 16 for 30 for 200 yards and 1 INT. Sure its not an impressive stat line but he did once again engineer a late game winning TD drive. He also took a shot to the helmet in the first half from Lance Briggs that should have been a penalty but instead Jake used it make a point this his offense. I would have loved to hear what he said to the Bears players.
The Panthers defensive line finally managed a sack, getting one from DT Damione Lewis. PR Mark Jones broke a nice punt return, his first significant one since joining the Panthers. I think he earned another start next week.
‘Ouch that hurt' plays:
Nick Goings weak block on punt protection resulted in a block and easy TD for the Bears before their offense ever touched the ball. What was he thinking? Coach better make him run a few laps for that one.
Jeff King bobbled a catch that allowed CB Charles Tillman to get the INT that led to the Bears 2nd TD. King did later redeemed himself though.
OT Jordan Gross gave up a sack to Alex Brown that allowed the DT to put a big hit on the Panther QB.
How many penalties did the Panthers end up with, 30? It was probably more like 9 or 10 but geeez.. I think 5 were false starts alone. The Panthers had several big plays called back because of holding or something just as dumb.
Defensive Play of the Game
With the Bears trying to mount a game winning drive and forced to go for it on 4th and 1 the Bears hit the A gap with the fullback. The Panther defense held as both DT Maake Kemoeatu and DE Tyler Brayton got great penetration to stuff the run, it wasn't even close. The Panther offense then ran out the clock.
Offensive Play of the Game
Though Jonathan Stewarts 20 yard run ignited the offense in the second half I have to go with the seam pass to Jeff King that put the ball on the 1 yard line. It was a perfect through between the safety and the LB with King making a sliding tackle. The resulting TD by J-Stew proved to be the game winning score.
Other game notes:
LG Travelle Wharton sat out the game with a bum knee. Geoff Hangartner played well in his stead for the most part. I don't recall the Panthers sustaining any injuries during the game tough I did see Peppers limping at one point in the game. We'll have to see if that amounts to anything.
The Panthers contained KR Devin Hester for the most part. Hester left the game late with a rib problem.
Did anyone have a Dante Rosario sighting? I think he had one catch for the game and was a non-factor as Jake never targeted him. It wasn't the type of encore performance I was expecting but then again maybe the Bears game planned for him.
The Panthers should have known it was their day when after the Greg Olsen fumble the ball somehow stayed in bounds. It was headed out but then the spin on the ball caused it to turn the other way. It's a game of inches my friends.
Panthers Take Over First Place in the NFC South
With both the Saints and Falcons losing the Panthers are all along atop the NFC South at 2-0.