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Bears get back on track with 34-29 victory over Panthers

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Updated: October 2, 2011 9:16PM

After facing three 2010 playoff teams, the Bears ended a two-game losing streak to the Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field Sunday 34-29.

But there was plenty of drama.

Panthers rookie Cam Newton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, flummoxed the Bears defense, consistently avoiding sacks and making plays, both his arm and legs.

The Bears, though, capitalized on a mistake from Newton, intercepting a pass he forced to receiver Legedu Naanee, who was covered by Pro Bowl linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. Cornerback D.J. Moore came up with the tipped ball, and he returned it 20 yards for the touchdown.

The Bears offense didn’t mask its intention on Sunday.

On the opening drive, the Bears ran the ball on seven consecutive plays, with Matt Forte keying it with a 46-yarder. But, the drive stalled at the two-yard line, after a failed keeper attempt by quarterback Jay Cutler, and the Bears settled for a field goal.

Then Devin Hester – the return specialist – took over.

In the second quarter, after the Panthers tied the game at 10 on a one-yard Newton touchdown run, returned the kickoff 73 yards. Three plays later, thanks to excellent blocking, Forte cruised untouched for a 17-yard touchdown.

On the next series, after a three-and-out, Hester charged through a tackle attempt by Thomas Williams and completed a 69-yard punt return touchdown, the 11th of his career, an NFL record.

The Bears were up 24-10, at that point. But the Panthers regrouped and rebounded.

Newton avoided mistakes, and he picked apart the Bears defense. By the third quarter, he’d completed 18 of 28 passes for 273 yards, and he also gained 33 yards on seven runs, including two touchdowns.

The Bears defense had issues all day long, unable to stop him from completing passes or stop Panther runners from gaining big chunks.

The Panthers won the opening kickoff, and they elected to receive. Last week, the Packers made the same decision, and they marched 80 yards down the field, in less than four minutes, and jumped out to a 7-0 lead.

The Panthers moved the ball on the opening series, but they were set back by several penalties, including two by former Bears tight end Greg Olsen.

The Panthers settled for a 29-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead.

DeAngelo Williams had 10 carries for 82 yards for the Panthers, and Jonathan Stewart had 52 yards in eight carries.

But the Bears tightened up all around in the fourth quarter, with the defense creating a turnover on downs, around midfield. And the offense, thanks to Forte, was able to close the game out.

Forte had 26 carries for 205 yards, as well as four catches for 23 yards. Backup Marion Barber, in his debut for the Bears, had four carries for 17 yards, including a touchdown in the final two minutes.

The 2-2 Bears will now prepare for a Monday night game against the Detroit Lions.

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