Chicago had a lead 17-3 early in the 3rd quarter and could not hold on. The “vanilla” offensive game plan and two lost fumbles doomed a team that seemed to forget how to run the football in the 2nd half. Carolina’s 1st round draft pick out of Oregon, RB Jonathan Stewart (6-1, 235), ran through an abundance of would-be tacklers on his way to two scores, as he was clearly the team’s best and most important player on the field offensively. His size, speed, and strength reminded me of a mix between Bo Jackson and Christian Okoye.
Stewart stole the show and showed every bit of why he was regarded as the best back in this year’s deep rookie class. Rookie Matt Forte played extremely well early on but did not see many holes in the 2nd half, his offensive line just could not put together a standout performance like Carolina’s did. Forte had little room to run and could not overcome his line’s deficiencies and dirty laundry (holding penalties). Former Bear SS Chris Harris, forced a key, game-changing fumble midway in the 3rd with the score 17-6 in favor of Chicago. The ensuing drive had Stewart getting into the end zone for his first of two trips.
Midway in the 4th QB Kyle Orton missed a wide-open Marty Booker down the field with what would’ve been a sure touchdown and victory with the contest at 17-13. Chicago’s lack of field position (Devin Hester left with sore ribs), complete breakdown on the OL (less than 50 rushing yards in 2nd half), and obvious problems throwing the ball deep (no true #1, though Lloyd looked good – great hands and body control) made sure Carolina would come out on top. Defensively, John Fox’s squad turned up the heat and intensity so much, you could’ve made an argument that it was just as scorching as the temperature on the field in Charlotte.
Taking into consideration that both teams shocked the world last Sunday, I thought this game’s atmosphere and aggressiveness was surprisingly at an incredible high level for Week 2. I have to say that the Carolina’s defense made their presence felt, but Jonathan Stewart was undoubtedly the difference-maker. I expect Stewart to continue to flourish and improve on what was his official “coming out party”. With all that being said, this game just goes to show you that the Bears cannot win on a weekly basis with Orton and their current state of the OL.
I was already on the Stewart bandwagon, now I have jumped on to his team’s bandwagon. Carolina is the team to beat in the NFC South and this is a game they will certainly build on and use to reach newer heights. And remember, they’re doing this without their most explosive contributor on offense – Steve Smith!