It was a battle of two NFL teams at the bottom of the barrel on Thursday night, but the Chicago Bears don’t mind picking up its third win of the season as they defeated the Carolina Panthers, 16-13.
The Bears are now 3-7 on the season, while the Panthers fall to 1-8 as their struggles under new head coach Frank Reich continue.
This low-scoring bout began with two straight punts, one from each team. However, the third punt led to this game’s first points, and it wasn’t cheers coming from the Solider Field faithful.
Moans and groans showered the field.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette was back deep in the Panthers’ zone awaiting the punt from the Bears’ Trenton Gill. After catching it clean, Smith-Marsette avoided a few tackles that delivered some daylight to run through.
After shimmying past another defender, Smith-Marsette had a clear path toward the end zone with only Gill to beat. And that’s exactly what he did, shedding the tackle and getting into the end zone for a 79-yard touchdown.
It’s the second primetime game in a row a punt return kicked off the scoring, as the Los Angeles Chargers did so to the New York Jets on Monday night.
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Rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent, getting his fourth career start in place of the injured Justin Fields, and the Bears were able to respond with a field goal to cut into the lead. However, the Panthers and their rookie quarterback, first-overall pick Bryce Young, did the same.
There wasn’t much offense except for a couple more Bears field goals, which cut the lead to one at the end of the first half. It wasn’t until midway through the third quarter when the Bears were able to finally get into the end zone.
It was D’Onta Foreman, the veteran running back who played for the Panthers last year, that continues to have a solid run in Chicago. He did what he does best, smashing through tacklers to pick up extra yardage and he found the end zone from four yards out to make it 16-10 in favor of the home team.
To begin the fourth quarter, though, the Panthers were able to cut the Bears’ lead to three with another field goal from Eddy Pineiro.
After forcing a Bears punt, Young was looking to deliver a potential game-winning drive, and he killed tons of fourth-quarter clock to start marching downfield. But, after the Bears got a crucial third-and-10 stop that almost resulted in an interception for Young, Reich decided to go for a 59-yard field goal to tie the game.
Pineiro lined it up, but he didn’t have enough leg to make it.
The Bears would make Carolina spend their timeouts, and Foreman helped run the clock out to collect the win. Bagent’s pass to Darnell Mooney on third down got the final first down needed to kneel it out.
Foreman had 21 carries for 80 yards with his touchdown run that became the game-winner. Bagent was 20-of-33 through the air for 162 yards, finding ex-Panther D.J. Moore, who Carolina traded this offseason to move up in the draft to get Young out of Alabama, five times for 58 yards.
For the Panthers, Young struggled with only 185 yards on 21-of-38 with no touchdowns scored on offense. The Panthers also had just 43 yards on the ground.
The Bears will have a tougher task next week when they see the Detroit Lions on the road, while the Panthers will return home to face the Dallas Cowboys next Sunday.