Bear kicker Robbie Gould celebrates his game winning field goal against the Panthers. Carolina Panthers vs. the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, Sunday, October 28, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
With lake crosswinds gusting at 25 mph, the fourth most-accurate place-kicker in NFL history was the second most-accurate kicker at Soldier Field on Sunday.
But with the game on the line, Robbie Gould was the right guy at the right place at the right time. After missing a 33-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, Gould crisply and cleanly booted a 41-yarder as time ran out to give the Bears a 23-22 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
‘‘You treat it like a regular field goal,’’ Gould said. ‘‘I just went out there and trusted my technique and trusted that I knew it was going to blow from right to left off the upright and that’s what it did.’’
While Panthers kicker Justin Medlock was 5-for-5 — hitting from 34, 31, 22, 43 and 45 yards — Gould was wide right on his first attempt with the Bears trailing 19-7 with 12:14 left in the game.
‘‘It wasn’t an easy day out there,’’ Gould said. ‘‘It’s one of the tougher days we’ve had. But there’s no excuse for missing a 33-yarder. just overplayed it. I gave the wind too much credit and missed it. I made a mistake.
Gould credited his teammates for setting him up to be the hero.
‘‘I’m glad to get another opportunity,’’ said Gould, who is 13-for-15 on field goals this season. ‘‘The guys on offense did a great job in the two-minute drill and ended up in field-goal position. Pat [Mannelly] and Adam [Podlesh] did an excellent job executing the snap and hold and the guys did a great job blocking.’’
A friend in need ...
Gould also got a boost from teammate Eric Weems, who provided moral support after the missed field goal.
‘‘He was on the sideline pouting and holding his head down, so I walked up to him and told him, ‘Hey, you’ve got to keep your head up, because you’re going to get another opportunity,’’’ Weems said. ‘‘All you’ve done now is set yourself up for the game-winning kick.’
‘‘He said, ‘I got you E-wheezy.’ And lo-and-behold, that’s what happened. I said, ‘I told you,’ and he said ‘I gave all the credit to you.’ That’s a great team player.’’
... is a friend indeed
Gould came to Weems’ aid, taking on Panthers safety Colin Jones when the Panthers roughed up Weems with an aggressive double team on the kickoff after Tim Jennings’ interception return for a touchdown.
‘‘The guy was trying to hit Weems and obviously when you see one of your players getting hit you want to help him out,’’ Gould said. ‘‘I tried to help him out and the guy got upset that I hit him. Oh well. It’s part of football.’’
Conte’s long day
Safety Chris Conte said he was paying too much attention to Steve Smith when Cam Newton burned the Bears for a 62-yard pass down the middle to Brandon LaFell in the first quarter.
‘‘It was my fault,’’ Conte said. ““I was thinking ‘89’ the whole time and overplayed it too much. I’ve got to learn to be aware of someone but not put too much focus on him.’’
Conte disputed the personal foul penalty he was assessed in the third quarter when he lowered his shoulder into LaFell on an incompletion and hit him in the helmet.
‘‘It wasn’t a penalty,’’ Conte said. ‘‘If I get fined for it, I’ll definitely appeal. I didn’t do anything. He’s diving into me. I don’t know what else you want me to do. Half the referees were saying it wasn’t a penalty and only one guy said it was. That’s the way things happen.’’
Shades of Joe Theismann
After Gould’s missed field goal, Panthers rookie Brad Nortman helped fuel the Bears’ winning rally with a six-yard punt that gave the Bears possession at the Carolina 38 with 10:18 to go and the Panthers leading 19-7. The Bears drove 38 yards on seven plays for a touchdown, with Cutler hitting tight end Kellen Davis to cut the deficit to 19-14.
‘‘I didn’t hit it like I wanted to,’’ Nortman said. ‘‘That’s the danger of directional punting, especially under thise conditions. That was the windiest game I’ve faced in a long time. But that’s no excuse. I need to hit the ball better.’’
Devin Hester had punt returns for 11 and zero yards. But the Panthers didn’t give Hester a chance on kickoffs, squib-kicking seven times, giving them possession at their 43, 23, 20, 43, 42, 34 and 22.
‘‘If it’s going to help our offense get good field position, it’s a win for us,’’ Hester said. ‘‘I know it’s going to come eventualy. If they do it the whole season it’ll put us at the 40-yard line every time. It’s hard to beat this team when you put us at the 40-yard line.’’
Bennett, Marshall OK
Both Brandon Marshall and Earl Bennett were dinged during the game but were not seriously injured.
‘‘Just got tripped up,’’ said Marshall, who limped off the field and missed one play on the Bears’ fourth-quarter touchdown drive. ‘‘I felt a little tweak, but it’s one of those things where you just have to walk it off and it goes away. I feel great and was able to finish the game.’’
‘I’m good,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘I had the wind knocked out of me. But I’m all right.’’
Tim Jennings two interceptions gave him an NFL-leading six in seven games this season. He had seven in 92 career games coming into this season.
Cam Newton’s pass plays of 62 yards to Brandon LaFell and 47 to Steve Smith were the longest plays against the Bears’ defense this season. Their previous long play was a 34-yard pass against the Jaguars.
Adam Podlesh, who came into the game ranked 30th in the NFL in net average (38.1), averaged 44.8 on four kicks against the Panthers.
Jay Cutler, who came into the game leading the NFL in fourth-quarter passer rating (125.0), was 12-of-14 for 106 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday, a 122.0 rating. Cutler’s passer rating was 37.8 through three quarters (7-of-14, 80 yards, one interception). He finished the game at 83.3.
With Cutler’s two fumbles and interception, the Bears were minus-1 in turnover differential to drop to plus-12 for the season. It was the second time this season with a negative differential. They were minus-2 in the loss to the Packers in Week 2.
Rookie Shea McClellin made only one tackle, but it helped make a difference. McClellin, whose main role is to rush the passer, stopped DeAngelo Williams for a three-yard loss at the Bears 13-yard line that helped force the Panthers to settle for a 31-yard field goal that made it 13-7 with 4:31 left in the first half.
‘‘We had a line stunt on and I happened to be in the right place at the right time,’’ McClellin said. ‘‘I was happy, but it’s just one play.’’
Corey Wootton had a pass deflection that also helped force the Panthers to settle for a field goal. Armando Allen, Bennett, Kyle Adams, Craig Steltz, Weems and Wootton all handled squib kickoffs without incident. Stephen Paea also had a tackle-for-loss.