Defense was keyCoach John Fox praised his defense for keeping his team in the game and allowing them to beat the Chicago Bears 20-17 on Sunday.
"Defensively, I thought we played very hard," Fox said in a press conference Monday at Bank of America Stadium. "It's the ultimate team game. I thought the defense kept us in it. The offense bailed us out last week (against San Diego) and I think the defense kept us in it and bought time for our offense (to come around) this week. I think that is what this game is about."
The Panthers allowed the Bears only 23 yards on 17 offensive plays in the fourth quarter. One of Chicago's touchdowns on Sunday came off a blocked punt and the other on a 23-yard drive after a turnover by tight end Jeff King.
Once the Panthers took the lead at 20-17 with 3:52 left to play, the Panthers defense stiffened and held the Bears without a first down on their final two possessions.
The last stop was particularly impressive.
After a 9-yard run on first down by Matt Forte, the Panthers stuffed the Bears on their next three plays preventing them from picking up the final yard for a first down.
On fourth-and-1, the Panthers sniffed out an inside run and stuffed fullback Jason McKie's run up the middle at midfield. That secured Carolina's win as Jake Delhomme was able to take a knee and run out the clock.
Prior to that play, middle linebacker Jon Beason huddled everyone together and said, "'I'm going to give everything I've got for you and you do it for me.' Guys went out and responded, and it was just an effort play - mano y mano."
It was the under-appreciated nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu who broke up the play, getting a good push inside. Na'il Diggs and Julius Peppers both swarmed in to finish up, tackling McKie behind the line of scrimmage.
"Big Maake made the play," Beason said. "I went over and hugged him and told him I loved him. I get a little emotional when we win. Especially when guys make plays, I feed off of it."
Added safety Chris Harris: "We always want it that way, we want it on our back. The offense carried us last week, and that is why they call this a team game. So we felt it was our turn. We had to return the favor this week and we just hope it evens out like that all year long."
As for the offense, Fox said he was "concerned" by their performance in the first half, but happy with the adjustments made in the locker room at halftime.
Overcoming mistakes on OffenseTo beat the Chicago Bears on Sunday the Carolina Panthers first needed to overcome a frustrating penalty-plagued first half. The Panthers offense killed itself with false start penalties in the first half, tagged with one in each of its first five possessions. The guilty parties were Jeff Otah, Jeff King, Dante Rosario, Brad Hoover and Jordan Gross.
"We were just so inept on offense in the first half," said quarterback Jake Delhomme. "We didn't get anything going. We'd jump off-sides. Every time we made a play, there was something."
What was happening is the Bears were regularly bringing eight men up to the line of scrimmage and messing with the Panthers cadence.
"We had to hone in, listen to the cadence and listen to what's going on," Delhomme said. "They are making some calls late in the cadence, so be it. Hone in on my voice and just one play at a time. I think we kind of did that and that was the biggest thing."
Cheap shot riled-up playersThe Panthers rallied after linebacker Lance Briggs took what was perceived to be a dirty shot on quarterback Jake Delhomme in the third quarter.
"You don't wake up a sleeping giant," said safety Chris Harris. "I was pretty upset and it became more than a game after that. We wanted to get back at them because we are not going to take that. We are going to protect our quarterback. He is one of our leaders and we are not going to let anybody get a shot like that on him."
Added Fox: "I know my energy went up. I'm sure it was a little more widespread than that. That's what football is all about."
On Monday, Fox was asked about his thoughts on the hit.
"I'm not able to have an opinion only because they get in your pocket," Fox said referring to the NFL rule that prohibits coaches from talking about officiating lest they get fined. "But it's something we'll address and look at and go from there."
When told by a reporter he's able to have an opinion, Fox replied, "Yeah, but I'm going to keep it to myself."
Harris shines against former teamWith the Panthers down 17-6, Chris Harris popped the ball loose from tight end Greg Olsen - his second fumble of the game - in the third quarter leading to a Carolina touchdown.
"On tackles like that, that's an easy one, when I'm tackling from the side," Harris said. "Most ball carriers will try to give you a stiff arm or something or are not paying attention. It's kind of like when you are playing basketball with lazy defense and the guys tries to poke it out from behind. Those are the easy ones in football."
Rookie RB runs toughJonathan Stewart gave the Panthers a huge boost in the second half. After carrying just once in the first half, Stewart ran 13 times for 76 yards against a stingy Bears defense in the second half. He seemed a little better suited to run against the Bears physical defense than the smaller DeAngelo Williams.
"Jonathan ran hard," Fox said. "It's a guy who we are just learning about. Last week he did some good things. We didn't get a chance to look at him a whole lot in the preseason. I think he'll get better every week. He's a very powerful guy and a hard runner.