The 2012 season has been a disaster for the Carolina Panthers, and this Sunday they head to the hornets nest of Solider Field to play possibly the best defense in the NFL in the Chicago Bears.
Monday night the Bears forced four Lions turnovers, a few in the red zone as the Bears moved to 5-1 with a 13-7 win over their NFC North rivals.
Now they face Cam Newton and the struggling Panthers, who are 1-5 and made a move Monday after their latest loss, a 19-14 decision at home to the Dallas Cowboys.
Owner Jerry Richardson sent a message to the organization by firing longtime general manager Marty Hurney.
“In a situation like this is, when action is being taken, it doesn’t mean the action has stopped,” coach Ron Rivera said. “By no means is it over.”
With a 7-15 record since taking over in 2011, Rivera feels the pressure to get his team on track. The Panthers had lofty expectations after star rookie Newton led them to wins in four of their final six games last season.
“There is something we have to find that is missing,” Rivera said. “I’m not sure if it’s a leadership issue, a coaching issue, a playing issue or a schematic issue. But something is out of whack and we have to fix it.”
Newton leads the Panthers with 273 rushing yards, but he’s not been too accurate with his throws, as he has thrown five touchdowns and six interceptions. He ran for 64 yards and passed for 233 with a touchdown against the Cowboys, but also threw an INT in the red zone as the Panthers fell to 0-4 in games decided by six or fewer points.
The Bears are allowing a league-low 13.0 points per game and has forced an NFL-high 21 turnovers, meaning it could be a huge day for the Chicago D as they get ready to feast on Newton and co.
After overcoming slow starts in their previous two victories over Dallas and Jacksonville, the Bears reached the end zone on their first drive Monday but settled for two field goals the rest of the night. Chicago will try for a more complete effort against a Carolina team that’s allowing 366.2 yards and 24.0 points per game.
“We’re still trying to find our way on offense,” said receiver Brandon Marshall, who has 25 catches for 363 yards and three TDs in the last three games.
Chicago’s Matt Forte has rushed for 203 yards in the past two contests. He’s rushed for 371 yards and three TDs in his last two versus Carolina, rolling up a career-high 205 yards on the ground in last season’s meeting.
This looks like an obvious mismatch, and while the Bears will be coming off a short week, they should still have an easy time getting to 6-1, topping the Panthers by 17.
Chicago 27 Carolina 10