ReFo: Bears @ Panthers, Week 5
There was plenty of good play in this NFC matchup, but with six total fumbles and three interceptions, there was no shortage of sloppy play too. It was Chicago that turned the ball over last, and in this back-and-forth game that was all it took for Carolina to close out with a late touchdown.
After their defensive meltdown a week ago, there was little improvement as Chicago held a less talented offense to a still considerable 31 points. Once again, the offense didn’t help matters, turning the ball over twice in the fourth quarter in scoring range (not including their final drive), resulting in an easy 10 points for the Panthers. Concerns about Chicago’s recent inability to get anything going in the second half would be understandable — the Bears have scored 38 points in the first halves of their last two games compared to three points in the back halves of those two games.
Certainly some of that second half drop-off has to be credited to Carolina. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly and partner in crime Thomas Davis seem hell-bent on compensating for any apparent weaknesses in the secondary, and even without Greg Hardy the Panthers managed to get pressure on Jay Cutler and force turnovers. With well-balanced performances like we saw this weekend, there’s no reason to think Carolina can’t make a repeat trip to the postseason.
Chicago Bears –Performances of Note
Matt Slauson, LG: -3.3 pass blocking
Breakdown: After missing the better part of four weeks with an ankle injury, Slauson came back into the lineup in Charlotte. The former Jet played well enough in the run game, but moving backwards he struggled tremendously with Kawann Short, surrendering a hit, hurry, and sack to the sophomore defensive tackle.
Signature Play: On the Bears’ final offensive play, Slauson mishandled a defensive stunt by failing to drop into his pass-blocking stance, forcing Michael Ola to block the stunting Mario Addison and allowing Short to jet to the outside and end the game with a strip-sack.
Matt Forte, HB: +0.6
Breakdown: While fumbles will always be frowned upon here, Forte’s body of work in this contest overshadowed his fumble late in the fourth. The fluid runner did most of his damage as a receiver out of the backfield, catching all 12 passes sent his way and racking up 107 yards after the catch. He forced three missed tackles on the ground and five more through the air, as Forte demonstrated once again why he’s one of the best dual-threat backs in the league.
Signature Play: With 3:15 to go in the second quarter, Forte took a screen 56 yards, forcing three missed tackles.
Ego Ferguson, DT: +2.3
Breakdown: Playing just under half of the defensive snaps, Ferguson nonetheless made his presence felt as one of Chicago’s most impactful defenders. The Bears’ 2014 second-round pick batted passes at the line on back-to-back plays in the second quarter, with a diving interception by Briggs off the second tip ending Ferguson’s aerial blockade.
Signature Stat: His 31 snaps were a career high for the rookie, as was his +2.3 grade.
Carolina Panthers –Performances of Note
Cam Newton, QB: +4.5 passing
Breakdown: The raw stats don’t impress, but Newton’s play was so much more than the numbers on Sunday. His receivers did him no favors with three dropped passes, and Kelvin Benjamin had a perfect pass knocked from his hands by Kyle Fuller late in the first. With a +2.1 passing grade under pressure, Newton consistently made plays while avoiding mistakes. Even his lone interception was hardly his fault, with Lance Briggs making a diving grab off of a batted pass.
Signature Play: With 51 seconds left in the first half, Newton dropped a beautiful lob on a go route behind the corner while leading Benjamin away from the free safety, only for Benjamin to get turned around and fail to locate the would-be score.
Thomas Davis, LB: +4.1
Breakdown: Davis bounced back from a disappointing outing against Pittsburgh with an outstanding performance against the Bears. Sure, he missed a couple tackles, but Davis was absolutely everywhere on Sunday, recording six defensive stops. He attacked the ball in coverage, allowing four completions for a meager 20 yards and tallying a pass defense in the process.
Signature Play: Q2, 6:32. Davis showed off his incredible coverage skills. Pressed up to the line and threatening an A-gap blitz at the snap, Davis turned to run with Brandon Marshall up the seam, forcing contact the instant the ball arrives and deflecting the pass, resulting in Carolina’s first pick.
Charles Johnson, DE: +2.3 pass rushing
Breakdown: Johnson hasn’t done a lot recently to make good on the massive contract he was handed a few years ago, but matched up with Jordan Mills and backup tackle Michael Ola, he earned his keep. Recording his first sack of the season along with four additional hurries and a batted pass, Johnson added the game-sealing fumble recovery as icing on the cake.
Signature Stat: Johnson earned his first green pass rushing grade since Week 10 of last season.
PFF Game Ball
He had eight defensive stops and 14 tackles without a miss. What more could you ask for from Luke Kuechly (+5.5)?