CHARLOTTE, NC (WSPA) – The Panthers have a three-game winning streak when they return to Charlotte Sunday to face the 4-1 Chicago Bears.
Carolina made her move by winning each of the last three games and improving to 3-2 in the season. Mike Davis was exceptional in taking care of the injured Christian McCaffrey. While he has not reached the hundred yards on the ground in any game, Davis has been incredibly efficient and produced in the receiving game. In three games as a starter, Davis has rushed 35 times for 219 yards and one touchdown, adding 23 catches for 132 yards and two scores.
Davis should be under a heavy workload again this week. McCaffrey was not activated outside the IR this week, which was the first week to qualify for it, and so his four to six week forecast appears to be on track.
Teddy Bridgewater has thrown multiple touchdowns in each of the last two games, completing more than 70% of his passes in four of the five games this season. He has continued his efficient approach and has only flipped the ball once since week two. Bridgewater played against the Bears last season while with the Saints and managed to throw 281 yards and two touchdowns with no turnover in a 36-25 win.
The defense took a big hit this week with news that defensive tackle veteran Kawann Short will undergo shoulder surgery for the second year in a row, ending the season. A unit that had already struggled to stop the run now has to replace its best run defender. Zach Kerr thinks to start the rest of the way in place.
They’ve allowed eight hasty touchdowns this season, among the front runners, including 667 yards. And in more than half of opponents’ attempts, they have given up a third down conversion. And they’ve only included five sacks, the least in the NFL. However, their eight takeaways are among the most in the competition. Head Coach Matt Rhule shares his thoughts on the team’s run defense below:
Chicago has been a confusing team to analyze for five games this season. They’ve had wins in close games and won some significant setbacks. Yet they didn’t look that impressive. Their defense is the obvious strength of the team, but first let’s take a look at the offense.
Chicago turned to quarterback Nick Foles in week three. And now with two starts like a bear under his belt, he starts to form a rhythm with the attack. Against one of the better defenses in the league in Tampa Bay last week, Foles completed more than 70% of his passes for 243 yards with one score and one interception. He has also developed a rapport with Allen Robinson. In the past three games, Robinson has recorded 27 catches for 314 yards and two touchdowns. He has been on fire and is a huge threat in third place.
The Bears are struggling to run the ball effectively with David Montgomery in charge as they are among the worst in the league at just 95.4 yards per game. And they only score 21 points per game. But with Carolina’s problems against the run, the Bears can try to take advantage this week. While Tarik Cohen’s explosive recoil is out of the picture, the Bears use Cordarelle Patterson in a variety of ways on offense. Patterson is used very sparingly, but has done well with its limited touches. And he is one of the better returners in the league.
Jimmy Graham is a matchup problem at the tight end and has been quite effective in the red zone this season. The Panthers will need a solution for him in the center of the field and in the red area.
The Bears are stacked in defense. Chuck Pagano’s defense aims to stop the run first and foremost. A tout front seven with players like Akiem Hicks, Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan allows 113 yards of rush per game and gives up just 20 points per game. They are equally talented at the back with professional bowl safety Eddie Jackson and talented cornerback Kyle Fuller, who is expected to shadow Robby Anderson on Sunday.
That unit is in the top ten of the competition in the number of meters per game. But like the Panthers, they’ve only managed five takeaways this season.
The Panthers are a good fit with the Bears as they look for a fourth straight win. While the Bears defensive front has done a good job knocking out opponents, the Panthers are among the best in the league at running football. Something has to be done on Sunday. And Carolina has been great at winning possession time. Defensively, Carolina has had a problem stopping the flight, but the Bears have yet to find a current on the ground. This is a good opportunity for the Panthers to improve in that area.
If Carolina is able to win the battle in the trenches and sustain moderately long rides with a healthy dose of Davis, they have a great chance of expanding their win streak. But if the Bears are able to gain possession and defeat the Panthers secondarily, it could spell downfall for Carolina. They must find a way to shut down Allen Robinson and force the Bears to use other weapons. Robinson gets his, but they can’t let him take over like he’s done in previous games this year.
This should be a close game, and both teams have been battle tested this season. One of these teams will have to be more resilient on Sunday.
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