Bears edge Panthers, increase shot at No. 1 overall pick
Jamie Sabau - USA Today Sports

Bears edge Panthers, increase shot at No. 1 overall pick

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO - It may not always be pretty, but a win is a win, and for the Chicago Bears (3-7), wins have been challenging to come by. Entering Thursday night's contest with the Carolina Panthers (1-8) at Soldier Field, the Bears came into a 5-21 record since Matt Eberflus took over and currently occupy the No. 2 and No. 3 pick in next year's draft. Essentially, they would like the Panthers to continue to lose as that pick will go to the Bears, and there is a shot that it could be the No. 1 pick for a second straight season.

In a league where every win matters, the Bears will take any win they can get right now, as it could serve as a confidence booster. Even with Tyson Bagent throwing for 162 yards and the offense being held under 300, it was the Bears defense that stood tall in the end as Eddy Pinero missed a game-tying 59-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to give the Bears a 16-13 win. While Bagent struggled to push the ball downfield, he did take care of the football, as that is something he has had issues with the past two weeks.

The same can be said about Bryce Young and the Panthers, as their offense was also having trouble moving the ball. Not only did the Bears hold the Panthers to just 43 yards rushing, but Young was held to 185 yards passing as the only touchdown for the Panthers came on special teams. That came after neither offense got anything going on their first two possessions as the former Bear Ihmir Smith-Marsette fielded the Trent Gill punt and followed his blockers for the 79-yard touchdown to put the Panthers up 7-0. It was the first punt return touchdown for the Panthers since 2017, and it had to be a great moment for Smith-Marsette, whose tenure in Chicago ended abruptly.

Immediately following that TD, Bagent and the Bears offense started to move the ball, with DJ Moore picking up his second first-down reception of the game and a couple of nice first-down pickups by D'Onta Foreman. Bagent did try to hook up with Moore in the end zone only to have the ball fall incomplete as Chicago had to settle for the 54-yard Cairo Santos field goal to make things 7-3.

The game's biggest play for either team came on the Panthers next possession as Young was given time to throw and found Mike Strachan for 45 yards to put the ball back in Bears territory. Another completion to Adam Thielen moved the ball closer, but the Bears defense toughened up as Carolina settled for the 33-yard Pinero field goal to extend the lead to 10-3. Those were the Panthers' final points for quite a while as the Chicago defense got after the Young and made things difficult for an already struggling offense.

As the first half winded down, Foreman continued to shoulder much of the load, finishing with 80 yards on the ground. Facing a fourth down and short with the half winding down, Bagent found Tyler Scott to keep the drive alive, resulting in another Santos field goal to cut the lead to 10-6. That was only the beginning for Bagent as he used his arm to put together a massive drive late in the half as Cole Kmet helped set up another 39-yarder by Santos, who pulled the Bears within 10-9 at the break.

Granted, Chicago wasn't happy to be down at the half, but Eberflus loved how his defense played, and they continued that into the second half. Two drives in and the Panthers punted the ball away twice as they came out with negative nine yards on those drives. One of those drives pinned the Panthers deep on their end as a short punt from Johnny Hecker gave the Bears an excellent field position at the Carolina 38-yard line.

Nine plays later saw the Bears pick up their lone TD of the night as Foreman plowed in from four yards out to give Chicago their first lead of the night, 16-10. It was a lead the Bears wouldn't give back, as the Panthers had just 24 yards of offense in the third quarter. Once the fourth quarter got underway, Carolina suddenly started to move the ball a little better as a poor punt by Gill gave the Panthers the ball at the Bears 40.

Fortunately, the Bears defense was able to hold the Panthers to another field goal to keep a 16-13 lead, but with their offense going quiet again it would be up to the defense to win this one. Needing a field goal to tie things up, Young and the offense put the team on their back as they orchestrated a long 15-play drive late in the fourth that took nearly six minutes off the clock.

To their credit, the Bears didn't make things easy for them as Young had to convert several fourth down plays, and for the most part, he did, including a 13-yard hookup to Miles Sanders on fourth and short to move the ball inside Bears territory. Young wasn't as lucky the next time as he underthrew Thielen on another third down play, setting up a long 59-yard try to tie things up. What looked like it was going to be good off his foot, Pinero didn't have enough leg as his field goal came up short and allowed the Bears to run out the clock to seal their third win of the season.

The win guarantees that the Bears will, at the very worst, have the same record they had last season, but you have to think they have winning more games on their mind. Along with the performances of Bagent and Foreman, Moore led the way for the WRs as he finished with 58 yards on five catches, with Kmet adding 45 yards on five receptions. Chuba Hubbard was held to 23 yards rushing in the loss. Strachan led the way for the Panthers with 45 yards receiving, and Thielen came away with 42. Chicago will now enjoy a mini-bye week before entering a three-game stretch with the Detroit Lions twice and the Minnesota Vikings.

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