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The Chicago Bears managed to even their season record to 2-2 and avoided falling too far back in the NFC North division behind the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions (Yes…the Detroit Lions) who both improved to 4-0 over the weekend. The game wasn’t best victory the Bears managed to pull off, but a win is a win. The game was pretty much in doubt until a 3 yard TD run by Marion Barber with 1:23 left in the 4th quarter put the score at 34-23 Bears. The Panthers scored a meaningless TD with 4 seconds left in the game to close the scoring for the day.

As expected, the Bears actually did come off the bus running. They amassed 224 rushing yards on 31 carries (7.2 yards per carry) and scored two rushing TD’s. The passing attack was another story as Jay Cutler only completed 9 of 17 passes for 102 yards and one interception. Fortunately, the Bears didn’t need to pass to win Sunday as they were helped by a 69 yard punt return for a TD by Devin Hester and a 20 yard interception return for a TD by DB D.J. Moore on a deflected pass by rookie QB Cam Newton. The interception return was about the only highlight on a Bears defensive effort that yielded 543 total net yards by the Panthers. Newton passed for 374 yards against the Bears as it seemed Carolina WR’s were open all day down field. Veteran WR Steve Smith had a banner day with 8 catches for 181 yards and a long of 53 on a busted coverage.

But all in all the defense held their ground when they absolutely had to. They held Carolina to a FG on their first drive when it seemed they were able to move the ball at will. They also held the Panthers on third down throughout the game; allowing them to complete only 2 of 12 third down attempts. Yet the amount of yards they allowed was disturbing. Especially disturbing was how successful the Carolina rushing attack was at moving the ball, getting first downs and providing for short second and third down attempts. The Panthers amassed 169 rushing yards on 29 carries for only a slightly less yards per carry than the Bears (6.5 vs. 7.2).

As they say, a win is a win, but there is definitely much room for improvement; especially if they want to beat a very hungry, and suddenly dangerous, Lions team next week. Now for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the game:

The Good: Return specialist, Devin Hester continues to amaze! He returned a kick 73 yards, which led to the Bears first offensive TD of the game. Then he followed that performance with a 69 yard punt return for a TD (video below), which now gives him the all-time NFL record for punt returns for TD. Devin Hester IS the best return man in the history of the NFL.

The Bears running game came to life this game. Albeit it was against the 25th ranked rushing defense in the NFL, but it would have been worse had the Bears NOT run as well as they did. As noted above, they gained 224 yards on 31 carries; both great numbers for the Bears (hopefully something that will continue to be a staple of the Bears offense for games to come). At the head of the list was a career performance by Matt Forte. He gained a career best 205 yards on 25 carries and a TD. The combination of Forte on the outside and Marion Barber (5 carries for 17 yards) on the inside was just what the doctor ordered.

The Bad: The Bears passing attack was non-existent. Cutler only completed 53% of his passes for 6 yards an attempt with one interception. The pass protection looked good by comparison to previous weeks, but considering they only called 17 pass plays, the one sack allowed still looks bad. OT Frank Omiyale was removed from the game, presumably for poor performance. On successive plays, he allowed the Panthers LE to sack and hurry Cutler. The Bears’ receiving corps continues to amaze in its mediocrity. If the Bears can’t figure out how to pass block, opposing defenses will just stack the line against the Bears and dare Cutler to beat them with his arm; which he could do if he had time to throw and receivers who could catch.

The Ugly: Didn’t think I would have to put the Bears’ defense in this category, but 543 total net yards allowed at 7.5 yards per play pretty much sums it up. They let rookie QB Cam Newton (albeit a GOOD rookie) look like he was Tom Brady! The RB combination of  DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 134 yards on 18 carries, and Newton added 35 rushing yards and 2 TD’s of his own. Simply put, this is unacceptable! They better fix what’s broken and fast before they head out to Detroit to face a Lions team that is settling old scores.

In closing, I am including a video of Devin Hester’s historic punt return. Enjoy!

[youtube http://youtu.be/fz9KkRyEckA]

Next Week: at the Detroit Lions