After two weeks of little pass rush, it showed up in a big way against Chicago. The Panthers defensive line finished the day with four sacks and five more QB hits. Defensive end Charles Johnson, who has struggled the first four weeks, had a good game with two tackles, one sack, one QB hit, one fumble recovery and one pass defended. When the Panthers are able to get a consistent pass rush, it makes the rest of the defense that much better.
The return of Thomas Davis had a huge impact on this group and Luke Kuechly played at the high level Panthers fans have come to know. Yes, Matt Forte had over 150 yards from scrimmage but there aren’t many linebackers in the league that can stay with the Bears’ running back. They did do a good job of shutting down tight end Martellus Bennett to only 3 receptions and 17 yards receiving. As long as Thomas Davis can stay on the field, this defense is going to be good enough to win games.
The Panthers secondary had a tough assignment ahead of them, trying to shut down Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey but did enough to get the Panthers the win. The two Bears wide receivers combined for 9 receptions and 141 yards and one touchdown by Alshon Jeffery. The secondary was able to make up for the passing yards given up by forcing three turnovers. Thomas Decoud and Roman Harper picked off Jay Cutler once and Antoine Cason recovered a fumble.
It was a solid day for the special teams unit but could have been disastrous. In the first quarter, Philly Brown was back to return a punt and took a hit that forced him to fumble the ball. He was able to regroup, found the ball and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown. Graham Gano was perfect on the day with one field goal from 44 yards and four extra points. Brad Nortman had a really strong day with five punts averaging 48.2 yards and pinning two punts inside the 20.
Overall Defensive/Special Team Grade
The play in the second half by this defense was the reason the Panthers offense was able to get back into this game. The Panthers were able to force three turnovers in the second half, which gave the offense a short field and put them in a position to be successful. The Bears offense is an explosive group and the fact the Panthers were able to hold them to three points in the second half is impressive. This game ranks as one of their best, right there with their game against Detroit.