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Bears rally for win over Panthers despite lackluster start

Bears safety major Wright (R) helps cornerback Tim Jennings celebrate his interceptifor touchdown give Bears 20-19 lead fourth quarter Chicago

Bears safety major Wright (R) helps cornerback Tim Jennings celebrate his interception for a touchdown to give the Bears a 20-19 lead in the fourth quarter of the Chicago Bears 23-22 win over the Carolina Panthers Sunday October 28, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 29, 2012 1:42AM



The Bears couldn’t get anything going Sunday at Soldier Field.

Not on offense. Not on defense.

Not even from kicker Robbie Gould, who entered the game with just one missed field goal.

“Offense didn’t play well, defense didn’t play well, special teams we didn’t get no big plays [from],” Bears cornerback Tim Jennings said. “But we just had to keep fighting.”

Trailing 19-7 in the fourth quarter, the Bears rallied - highlighted by Gould’s 41-yard game-winning field goal as time expired - for a 23-22 victory over the Carolina Panthers that pushed their record to 6-1, providing a 1 ½ game lead on the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.

It was yet another fourth-quarter flop for the Panthers and yet another strong fourth-quarter finish for the Bears, particularly quarterback Jay Cutler.

Through three quarters, Cutler was seven of 14 for 80 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He was also sacked six times.

Fans at Soldier Field booed the Bears several times Sunday.

“I mean I’d boo us too,” Cutler said. “I told those guys it was a boo-worthy performance, if you will.

“It was pathetic, offensively, what we put out there.”

But Cutler entered the game as the NFL’s best fourth-quarter quarterback, and he only helped himself Sunday against the Panthers.

He completed 12 of 14 passes for 106 yards with a touchdown. For the season now, he’s 34 of 46 (73.9 percent) for 517 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in the fourth quarter.

His passer rating is 131.97, and he engineered his 13th fourth-quarter comeback, most notably by completing seven of eight passes for 52 yards on the final series to set up Gould’s game-winner from 41 yards out.

“That last two-minute drive was huge for us,” said Bears tight end Kellen Davis, who caught a 12-yard touchdown from Cutler in the fourth quarter. “We executed it well but Jay did a great job of managing everything.

“Not just throwing [the ball] but the way he managed the offense was impressive.”

There wasn’t much else, however, to highlight for the Bears.

The defense was gashed once again by the Panthers, allowing 416 net yards and 10 of 19 third-down conversions.

Jennings had the tough task of shadowing Panthers receiver Steve Smith, a three-time All-Pro who has had the Bears’ number in the past. But despite catching seven passes for 118 yards, Smith slipped on a fourth-quarter pass and Jennings intercepted it and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.

But the Panthers didn’t give up, moving the ball down the field and notching a 45-yard field goal that gave them a 22-20 lead with 2:32 remaining.

That put the game squarely on the shoulders of the Bears offense, and they collectively answered. No. 1 receiver Brandon Marshall caught four passes on the series for 36 yards, and Gould drilled the game-winner as the clock expired.

“The mark of a good offense is, when you have to score, you make it happen,” Bears cornerback D.J. Moore said.

The offensive players appreciate such encouraging words, but they also know they need to step up if the Bears are going to make a deep run in the playoffs.

“They’ve been playing lights out, no doubt,” Davis said. “It’s great, as an offense, to know we’re going to get the ball back. We’re coming along, and hopefully, we’ll peak together at the right time.”



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