Bears-Panthers Report Card

Obviously in a 29-21 loss to Carolina, the Bears didn't make the honor roll. However, with these grades summer school is in order.

BEARS REPORT CARD VS. PANTHERS
PASSING OFFENSE:
C-minus -- An overexcited Rex Grossman started out with three completions in his first 14 attempts for 2 yards, but after that settled down and played very well for someone with just six quarters of playing time in the past 15 months. He directed touchdown drives of 66, 67 and 68 yards while completing 14 of 28 passes for 190 yards and was only sacked once despite constant pressure, which knocked him down at least 10 times after he got rid of the ball. Second-year WR Bernard Berrian stepped up with five catches for 68 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Thomas Jones picked up a solid 80 yards on 20 carries, but the Bears didn't establish a ground game early, and after they fell behind 13-0 it was too late. As a team the Bears averaged just 3.6 yards per carry.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- A total embarrassment for one of the league's top pass defenses. Steve Smith caught 12 passes for 218 yards and touchdowns of 39 and 58 yards. Injuries were a factor, especially the loss of SS Mike Brown in the first quarter with an aggravation of the calf strain that sidelined him for the final four regular-season games. The loss of nickel CB Jerry Azumah also hurt, but CB Charles Tillman looked totally lost against Smith and FS Chris Harris was late providing help.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- Even after they knocked DeShaun Foster out of the game early in the third quarter, the Bears still weren't very effective, allowing 123 yards and 4.0 yards per carry.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- P Brad Maynard was uncharacteristically awful, although he did prevent the dangerous Steve Smith from doing any damage in this particular phase of the game, as he managed just one yards on two attempts. Returns were ordinary at best and kickoff coverage was below average.

COACHING: D -- Chris Thompson covering Steve Smith one on one after he had lit up the Bears' starters all day? Please. The offense comes out throwing? No pressure at all on Jake Delhomme after getting eight sacks in the first game? The Bears got outplayed for sure, but they also got outcoached.

PANTHERS REPORT CARD VS. BEARS
RUN OFFENSE: B
-- After rushing for a combined 449 yards in their previous two games, the 123 yards on the ground against the Bears may have seemed like a bit of a letdown. But considering they had only 55 yards rushing against the Bears in the first game, it wasn't bad at all. DeShaun Foster ran for 54 yards on 16 carries before breaking his ankle and Nick Goings added 34 yards on 10 carries. Steve Smith chipped in 29 yards on two reverses. Goings and Jamal Robertson will have to carry the load this week vs. Seattle.

PASS OFFENSE: A -- Jake Delhomme has been absolutely awesome in his six previous playoff games (he's 5-1 with a quarterback rating of more than 100), and this was his best yet. Delhomme completed 24 of 33 passes for 319 yards with three touchdown passes. His lone mistake, an coming on a second quarter interception, was the result of an outstanding athletic play by the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Brian Urlacher. Delhomme thought he had a touchdown to Nick Goings on the throw, but Urlacher leaped high in the air to tip the pass and then snatch it on its way down. As Delhomme said, "They get paid to make plays, too." Overall Delhomme was incredible connecting on two long scoring tosses of 58 and 39 yards with playoff terror Steve Smith. Smith had 12 receptions for 218 yards and two touchdowns, giving him four touchdowns already in the playoffs.

RUN DEFENSE: C+ -- This could have been better. The Bears ran for 97 yards on 27 carries and scored twice on the ground, including once on a fourth-and-goal at the Carolina 1. Thomas Jones had 80 yards on 20 carries. Defensive tackle Brentson Buckner was hit with two defensive holding penalties, the same thing that plagued him earlier this season.

PASS DEFENSE: C+ -- Carolina shut down Rex Grossman early on, limiting to just 2 yards passing on his first 15 pass attempts. But then Grossman suddenly and inexplicably came alive, leading three touchdown drives in four possessions, beginning with the Bears final drive of the first half. Grossman finished with 197 yards on 17 of 41 passing with one touchdown and one costly interception. Carolina's defense did come up with two stops late in the game to salvage the victory. Still, the Panthers had trouble covering the likes of Bernard Berrian, who had 68 yards on five catches before leaving the game with a hip injury. Grossman was sacked just once and finished with a quarterback rating of 54.1

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- The Panthers clearly won the special teams battle, but that was not necessarily the result of anything they did. Bears punter Brad Maynard had three punts of less than 30 yards and two of few than 20. Jamal Robertson had a solid day returning kickoffs for the Panthers, averaging 25 yards per return. His 34-yard return on the opening kickoff gave the Panthers the ball at the 40 and led to the team's first touchdown two plays later. John Kasay improved to 92 percent on field goal attempts in the postseason (23 of 25) for his career, hitting from 20, 38 and 37 yards out. Jason Baker pinned three of his five punts inside the Bears 20, including one at the 6 at a key point in the game.

COACHING: B+ -- The Panthers scored only three points and gave up eight sacks in the previous meeting with the Bears, so Dan Henning did an outstanding job of making changes in the game plan coming in Sunday. The Panthers scored 29 points, racked up 434 yards and only allowed one sack against the league's No. 2 defense. The Panthers defense surprisingly struggled during the second and third quarters against Rex Grossman, but did bounce back to make two key stops in the final minutes, including an interception by Ken Lucas. Carolina's special teams were outstanding and head coach John Fox had his gang ready to play after the Bears trash talked the Panthers all week long.


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