Surging Bears lead NFC North after road win at Panthers

ANDREW SELIGMAN
·4 min read

The Chicago Bears were rockin' and rollin' on Sunday.

They picked up their most lopsided win of the season with a 23-16 victory at Charlotte against the Panthers. They grabbed the NFC North lead, and they headed home feeling quite good about themselves.

“I wish you all could have been on the plane with us flying home last night,” coach Matt Nagy said Monday. "We were rockin’ and rollin’. We’re so fired up right now. It’s a great feeling. It’s pretty cool.”

Nick Foles threw for a touchdown and ran for one. The defense made up for another shaky performance by the offense, and the Bears improved to 5-1 in their best start since 2012.

Nagy, meanwhile, struck a far different tone than he did following the previous game. He lashed out at the struggling offense after the Bears squeezed past Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-19 at Soldier Field on a Thursday night.

But the game against Carolina left him in a much better mood.

“You have the conversations with the players and, like, in the locker room right after the game and you realize the care that they have,” Nagy said. “You realize how much better they want to get and you know they’re going to work hard. And also at the same point in time the conversations that you had of our own standards and expectations.”

The Bears improved to 5-0 against the NFC. They are also 3-0 on the road for the first time since the 2006 Super Bowl season. And they're staring down at the rest of their division even though they're not getting much from their offense.

“That gives us a lot of excitement for what happens when we do get this offense going,” Nagy said. “That’s why my vibe is the way it is because I love where we’re at right now as a team.”

WHAT’S WORKING

The defense. Chicago forced three turnovers, sacked Teddy Bridgewater four times, limited Carolina to 303 yards and allowed just 3 of 13 third-down conversions. The Bears held Bridgewater to a season-low 216 yards passing and picked him off twice, including DeAndre Houston-Carson's first career interception to seal the win. Houston-Carson also secured the victory over Tampa Bay when he broke up Brady's fourth-down pass in the final minute. Khalil Mack had a sack, giving him three in the past two games.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The run game. That the Bears couldn't get their ground game going against one of the NFL's worst run defenses magnified their struggles in that area. The Bears have just 126 yards rushing over the past three games after managing just 63 on Sunday. By comparison, they had 414 yards the first three weeks. And unlike in the loss to Indianapolis and the victory over Tampa Bay, the Bears weren't facing a fierce defensive front. David Montgomery had 58 yards against Charlotte, Cordarrelle Patterson had just one carry for a yard and the blockers simply did not create enough holes.

STOCK UP

Cairo Santos. Santos booted a career-best 55-yard field goal at the end of the first half to send Chicago to the locker room with a 13-6 lead. It was the longest field goal for the Bears since Mike Nugent’s 55-yarder at Minnesota on Dec. 31, 2017. Santos — promoted from the practice squad when Eddy Pineiro (groin) was placed on injured reserve prior to the opener — is 10 of 12 on the season after making all three attempts on Sunday.

STOCK DOWN

The offensive line. Blocking remains a huge problem for the Bears, and losing left guard James Daniels to a likely season-ending pectoral injury against Tampa Bay didn't help. Nagy opted to start veteran Rashaad Coward in his place over second-year pro Alex Bars on Sunday. But the issue is the line as a whole, not just one or two spots.

INJURED

The Bears reported no injuries from Sunday's game.

KEY NUMBER

20 — Chicago's five wins are by a combined 20 points.

NEXT STEPS

The Bears visit Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams for a Monday night matchup on Oct. 26.

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