Bears-Panthers Personnel Preview

A trip to the NFC Title game is on the line when the Bears and Panthers meet at Soldier Field this Sunday. Take an in depth look at the latest player news to come out of both camps.

BEARS
  • DE Adewale Ogunleye has already called out the Panthers and there's reason for his confidence. He sacked Jake Delhomme three times in the first meeting of the year.

  • DE Alex Brown could benefit from attention given to Ogunleye. Double-teaming one of the Chicago defensive ends means the other will receive one-on-one blocking and that's a matchup the Bears often win.

  • CB Charles Tillman will have the responsibility of keeping WR Steve Smith in front of him on Sunday. The first time around Smith did damage, but the Bears kept him out of the end zone. Chicago would be happy if that were again the case.

  • CB Nathan Vasher seemed to know the Panthers routes better than the receivers. In the Nov. 20 meeting Vasher picked off Delhomme two of the first three drives of the game, which led to 10 points.

  • SS Mike Brown said he is 100 percent healthy and has been going full speed in practice for a week after missing the final four games of the regular season. He had 116 yards on his three interceptions.

  • MLB Brian Urlacher will get a chance to play for the first time since winning Defensive Player of the Year. It will likely be an inspired performance, as has been the case with his play on a weekly basis all season.

  • QB Rex Grossman was sacked just once this season while throwing 39 passes, while Kyle Orton was sacked once every 12 pass attempts. Grossman averaged 6.64 yards per pass attempt, more than 1 1/2 yards better than Orton. He missed the first matchup against the Panthers and with just 6 quarters of regular season action it will be tough to get a read on him for the opposing defense.

  • RB Thomas Jones gained 4.3 yards per carry this season, a half-yard better than his career average. His 1,335 yards, nine touchdowns and 314 carries were all career bests.

  • RB Adrian Peterson is expected to be the Bears' No. 2 runner behind Jones, even though first-round pick Cedric Benson is considered all the way back from a Nov. 13 knee sprain.

  • RB Cedric Benson probably will be third on the depth chart this week and isn't expecting to get much, if any, playing time.

  • WR Muhsin Muhammad averaged 11.7 yards per catch this season, tied for the second-lowest mark of his 10-year career.

  • WR Justin Gage caught 29 passes for 315 yards in the final 10 games after just two catches for 31 yards in the first six games.

  • WR Bernard Berrian has averaged 8.6 yards per punt return without any fumbles, since taking over the job from waived Bobby Wade, who averaged 9.6 yards but had nine fumbles. Berrian also leads the Bears by a wide margin with an average of 18.9 yards on his 13 receptions.

  • TE Desmond Clark caught just one pass in the Bears' final four regular-season games.

  • PK Robbie Gould has hit 15 of his last 17 field-goal attempts.

    PANTHERS

  • QB Jake Delhomme could be the most important person on the field for the Panthers on Sunday. If he doesn't make mistakes, the Panthers have a good chance of winning. Delhomme had two interceptions against the Bears in the first meeting, resulting in 10 quick points. That's a hole the Panthers never could dig out of.

  • RB DeShaun Foster has come alive, running for 316 yards over the past two games, but the going will be much tougher this week as the Panthers head to Chicago. In the previous meeting with the Bears, Foster was held to 41 yards on nine carries. That's not a bad average, but the Panthers were never able to move the chains enough on offense to be consistent, largely because Jake Delhomme kept getting dumped on his back.

  • RB Nick Goings proved on Sunday he can still be counted on in a pinch. He carried the ball only once against the Bears in the last game but should see more action this time around with Stephen Davis out for the season.

  • WR Steve Smith had a huge game against the Bears in the previous meeting, catching a franchise-record 14 passes for 169 yards, yet the Panthers could only muster three points on offense. The Bears used a Cover 2 against the Panthers and let their front four control the line of scrimmage.

  • WR Keary Colbert caught three passes against the Giants and needs to step up this Sunday.

  • WR Drew Carter can count on at least one deep ball thrown his way on Sunday. Carter was inactive for the last meeting with Chicago, but the Panthers have been testing the waters deep with him at least once a game, normally early in the first half. He nearly came up with a touchdown catch on Sunday.

  • TE Michael Gaines could see more balls thrown his way this week as the Panthers battle a tough Bears defense and use more checkdowns.

  • OT Jordan Gross was beat for two sacks by Alex Brown in the last game against the Bears.

  • OT Travelle Wharton was beat by Adewale Ogunleye for three sacks in the last game against the Bears as the Panthers yielded eight sacks.

  • PK John Kasay has been more consistent down the stretch and knocked home field goals of 45, 31 and 18 yards against the Giants this past Sunday.

  • DE Julius Peppers added a sack on Sunday against the Giants and played a big role in Carolina's win.

  • DE Mike Rucker came up with a fumble recovery on Sunday and the Panthers will need his pressure against the Bears.

  • DT Jordan Carstens played outstanding against the Giants, not only holding Tiki Barber in check, but also registering a sack of Eli Manning.

  • LB Will Witherspoon had a sack and a forced fumble in a terrific game against the Giants.

  • LB Thomas Davis spent some of his day covering Jeremy Shockey, something he was effective at, and also had a sack of Eli Manning on Sunday.

  • LB Dan Morgan was back in action against the Giants and seemed to escape without any injury. The Giants ran only 35 plays all game. He was injured early against the Bears in the last game and had to leave.

  • CB Ken Lucas completely took Plaxico Burress out of the game on Sunday and will be called upon to do the same against Muhsin Muhammad this week. Muhammad dropped a few passes in the last meeting, but overall was fairly productive against his former team on Nov. 20.

  • CB Chris Gamble struggled covering Justin Gage in the last game. Don't expect Gamble to make the same mistakes twice.

  • FS Mike Minter continues to be the emotional leader on defense and did a great job walking up into the box and adding run support to help shut down Tiki Barber. He may do more of the same this week against Thomas Jones.

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