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Bears Run Over Panthers 34-29

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Oct 3, 2011 3:00PM

We're not sure whether Mike Martz finally understood that the Bears offense needed to run the ball more or if Lovie Smith had to remove pages from Martz's playbook to get him to hand the ball off more. But the Bears' running game led the Bears defeat the Carolina Panthers 34-29 at Soldier Field on Sunday afternoon.

After gaining only 51 yards on 19 rushing attempts in losses to New Orleans and Green Bay, Matt Forte had his biggest game on the ground as a Bear. Forte gained 205 yards on 25 carries as the Bears flipped their offensive play calling and focused on the running game. Jay Cutler threw the ball only 17 times, completing nine passes for 102 yards. Forte was enough to carry the offense on Sunday because, in true Bears fashion, all parts of the team helped add points to the board.

"What they did was, they won this football game the Bear way," Said Panthers head coach Rivera, who was formerly the Bears' defensive coordinator and also played nine seasons for the Bears under Mike Ditka. "Special teams, opportunities on defense, and then they ran the ball. They got back to running the ball."

Devin Hester showed he can be dangerous even with the new kickoff rules. He returned a kickoff 73 yards before being tackled by Panthers' Olino Mare, which set up the Bears first offensive touchdown. Carolina went three-and-out on their next possession and, on ensuing punt Hester found the end zone after breaking loose for 69 yards. With that score, Hester set the all-time NFL record for punt return touchdowns with 11. Special teams also contributed with a blocked field goal, when Julius Peppers swatted a 34-yard Mare attempt.

The defense scored the Bears first touchdown of the day, when a Cam Newton pass bounced off his receiver's hands and into D.J. Moore's. Moore returned the ball 20 yards for the pick-six, and gave the Bears the lead for good. But the defense played poorly overall, allowing 543 yards of total offense to the Panthers and 29 points. The Bears should have been able to put the game away with their running attack and special teams, but the defense allowed Carolina to hang around throughout. Peppers admitted the defense is in a bit of a funk. However, on Sunday they were good enough that the team walked off the field with the victory.

The 2-2 Bears finally played more like what fans expect from the Monsters of the Midway, but this team still isn't firing on all cylinders. Can they get the defense tuned up in time for next week's Monday Night Football appearance? The Bears travel to the Motor City to take on the surprising 4-0 Detroit Lions in a critical NFC North battle in front of a national audience (7:30pm ESPN).