The Bears go into Sunday’s action against the visiting Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field with a 1-2 record in a game that is a must-win if the playoffs are considered a possibility this season.
When the schedule came out, this one seemed like an easy win for the Bears, especially after facing the likes of New Orleans and Green Bay, which both turned out to be disheartening losses. Based on last year’s game in Charlotte, Carolina did not seem like much of a match for Lovie Smith’s team this season either.
But this is not last year’s Carolina team. Not with rookie sensation and #1 NFL draft pick, Cam Newton, taking the league by storm. And not with rookie head coach, ex-Bears’ linebacker and defensive coordinator, Ron Rivera, fashioning a dynamic offense around Newton, along with veteran skill players like wide receiver Steve Smith and running back, DeAngelo Williams to go along with ex-Bears’ tight end, Greg Olsen.
Newton’s play has already turned heads, especially those of opposing defensive backs, after he threw for over 400 yards in each of his first two professional games. With a comeback win over Jacksonville last Sunday, the Panthers, like the Bears, are also 1-2.
Unlike the Bears, Carolina comes in confident after their first win while the Bears’ are reeling on both sides of the ball. Lovie Smith’s defense could not get off the field against the Packers last Sunday and Mike Martz’ offense was not much help, considering that starting running back Matt Forte had only two yards rushing for the entire game.
The possible return from injury of starting safeties Chris Harris and Major Wright should help on defense and the addition of running back Marion Barber can only improve the Bears’ ground game which had a huge day last season against the Panthers.
Rivera will throw plenty of blitz schemes at Bears’ QB Jay Cutler, as every team does and to their credit, the offensive line did protect Cutler more effectively against the Packers than they did the previous week down in New Orleans when Cutler was hit on more often than a beauty queen at Mardi Gras.
Cutler was once where Cam Newton now is, the would-be savior and franchise quarterback. After only three games in the league, Newton has a better offense surrounding him than the Bears’ have been able to provide Cutler in three years. And it’s being done with an ex-Bears coach and an ex-Bears’ tight end who used to be Cutler’s favorite target.
The new gunslinger versus the not-so-new gunslinger. A showdown of sorts and one the Bears cannot afford to lose if they want to show their face in this town again. The game is scheduled for high noon, of course.