Dhruv Koul shares his in-game reactions, thoughts and observations from the Bears-Panthers game at Bank of America Stadium.  Follow him on Twitter @DhruvKoul to continue the conversation.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Chicago Bears entered today’s contest at a surprising 4-1, following a gutsy win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Thursday.  The Carolina Panthers, meanwhile, entered at an equally surprising 3-2, winning three straight after starting 0-2 and losing All-Universe RB Christian McCaffrey.  In a wild season, this game suddenly had possible playoff implications.

My pre-game thread:

The Bears hadn’t fared well following mini-byes or full bye weeks.  In 2018, they lost a heartbreaker in Miami after a bye week.  They also lost to the New York Giants after winning on Thanksgiving in Detroit.  In 2019, they did beat Denver after the season opening clunker, but played poorly.  Then they got blown out by New Orleans after a bye week and effectively ended their season with a loss in Green Bay after beating Dallas the previous Thursday night.

So yeah, not great after extended time off.  That was certainly something to watch in this game, especially against a Panthers team that is very disciplined and well-coached.

In the end, the Bears somehow overcame repeated attempts to shoot themselves in the foot and survived the Panthers on the road.  They’re 5-1!

I shared my in-game reactions, thoughts and observations from the game below.  Follow me on Twitter @DhruvKoul to continue the conversation.

Thoughts and Observations

1.  (PRE-GAME) One thing I want to see is the Bears start out strong and get a lead.  They’ve scored first in just one game this season — against the New York Giants.  Granted, they needed a last-play stop to win, but the pass rush certainly was ignited by having a lead.  Panthers’ QB Teddy Bridgewater leads a methodical offense that gets the ball out quickly to playmakers and lets them do the work.  They execute well, but they are not explosive (unless the defense is missing tackles).  Because of this, Bridgewater doesn’t get sacked often.  The Bears can generate better pressure with a lead, so hopefully Nick Foles & Co. are able to provide one.

2.  What a start for the Bears.  Jaylon Johnson with a good PBU leading to a Tashaun Gipson INT set the Bears up inside the 10-yard line.  After some terrible execution related to timeouts and delays (details that are sure to piss Matt Nagy off), the Bears scored on a touchdown pass to rookie TE Cole Kmet.  Great play to hold on to the ball.  A dream start for the Bears.

3.  It’s very concerning that the Bears haven’t been able to get the running game going against the Panthers, who were already very leaky against the run and lost Kawann Short for the season.  Rashaad Coward started at LG over Alex Bars for the Bears (a decision I don’t understand) and he’s been blown up repeatedly, especially in the running game.  David Montgomery hasn’t been able to get anything going, and it’s the OL that’s at fault.  It’s a concern, no doubt.

4.  Anthony Miller might be playing himself out of a job.  He had a first down picked up in Panthers territory (on third down), and decided to try making a play more than it needed to be — and lost the first down by going backwards.  Bears punted.  That’s inexcusable for a player who has struggled with details since the beginning.

5.  I’m convinced referees have no idea what a clean hit is.  The personal foul penalty on Kyle Fuller that probably should’ve been a fumble recovered by the Bears is inexcusable.  Last week, the refs smartly picked up the flag.  Today, they didn’t on a SHOULDER TO SHOULDER hit.  This cannot keep happening.

6.  Cairo Santos hit a 55 yard field goal (splitting the uprights right down the middle) just before halftime to give the Bears a 13-6 lead.  When was the last time the Bears converted a 55 yard field goal?  I’m afraid his recent showings don’t bode well for Eddy Pineiro…

7.  So this third quarter has been all sorts of weird (and bad).  Demetrius Harris killed a drive by himself.  After Eddie Jackson forced a fumble on Mike Davis and the Bears recovered in plus territory, Nick Foles threw up an absolutely awful pass to no one that was picked off.  It was an inexcusable play.

On the next play, Eddie Jackson returned a pick-six, but they called a DPI on Kyle Fuller.  It was a less egregious play that they *didn’t* call DPI on on Allen Robinson earlier in the game.  These referees have been miserable.

But Foles cannot make mistakes like the one he made.  He’s supposed to be a steady, smart veteran who can guide this offense.  He coughed up at least three points in inexcusable fashion for an offense that can’t afford to give away points.

8.  After the Bears caught a break on a Panthers missed field goal, the Bears took advantage by driving down the field and eventually scoring their first third quarter points of the season — a touchdown courtesy of a QB sneak by Foles.  David Montgomery with some strong running, clutch catches by Cordarrelle Patterson and Darnell Mooney, and the Bears go up 20-6.  I’m excited to watch the Bears’ defense (and the pass rush) play with a lead like this as the third quarter ends.

9.  The Bears are played some discombobulated football late in the game…  The Bears have been sloppy all game, but have definitely also been victimized by some rough officiating.  Still, many mistakes are self-inflicted and that CAN’T happen against a disciplined team on the road.  The Bears are up, still, but this is not winning football at the moment.

The two too-many-men penalties allowed the Panthers to move the chains twice before the Bears allowed a Panthers touchdown.  Awful play calling in the red zone limited the Bears to three points instead of seven.  It’s just not winning football.

10.  My goodness.  What a wild sequence here.  On 4th down, Teddy Bridgewater led DJ Moore (who was wide open) a bit too far and Moore barely couldn’t hang on to the ball.  That was a touchdown with a better throw.

And then trying to run out the clock, I’m not sure why Matt Nagy threw on third down.  It was two yards to gain and the throw was behind Allen Robinson (which otherwise would’ve picked up the first down to win it), but wow.  He has a lot to explain…

11.  I guess, maybe not.

12.  This Bears team is so flawed.  It’s remarkable.  But they’re 5-1.  It’s insane.  They led in this one throughout, and were able to hold on in the end.  There’s still a ton to clean up, but 5-1 is 5-1.

13.  Once again, not quite sure what to make of the Bears after that game.  There were just way too many mistakes that can’t happen.  And now they go to Los Angeles to take on a damn good Rams team in prime time on Monday Night Football.  Can the offense get out of its own way in this game?  Also, Aaron Donald is watching this game and excited to eat the Bears’ OL for dinner.  Who knows what we’ll get out there…

Early prediction:  Rams 24, Bears 13.

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