What we learned about Bears as defense smothers Bryce Young, Panthers

CHICAGO — What happened Thursday night at Soldier Field won’t be jotted down in the history books and saved for future football scholars to study and digest.

The Bears defeated the Carolina Panthers 16-13 at Soldier Field in a game that was so ugly the FCC probably should have cut the feed.

Undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent didn’t play well. No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young was worse.

Both defenses had good days, but that was almost certainly a product of the eye-sore offenses both sides trotted out.

The Bears improved to 3-7 in a game they couldn’t lose. They improved their draft stock in the process by beating a Panthers that deserves relegation.

Here’s what we learned in the Bears’ 16-13 win over the Panthers:

Avert your eyes

Penalties, missed tackles, turnovers, inconsistent offense, and overall sloppy play have characterized the Bears’ season.

That continued Thursday night against the Panthers and cost them an early seven points when old friend Ihmir Smith-Marsette returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead. Three Bears got a hand on Smith-Marsette, including Josh Blackwell, who whiffed the initial tackle on the house call.

The Bears’ issues also reared their head on offense in the first half.

With the Bears in Panthers territory down 10-3, Teven Jenkins was called for a hold that set up second-and-20. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy dialed up a shot play with rookie Tyler Scott streaking wide-open down the middle of the field. But Bagent didn’t pull the trigger and instead fired an incomplete pass to Roschon Johnson.

On third and 20, the Bears threw a screen pass for a gain of 5 but were also flagged for offensive pass interference on the play.

The Bears ran 42 plays and gained 205 yards in the first half but still trailed 10-9.

While the Bears spent most of the first half spinning their wheels, the Panthers’ offense was an utter abomination. Carolina gained just 97 yards in the first half and went 2-for-6 on third down. The Panthers only had the lead due to poor special teams tackling on the Smith-Marsette return.

A masterpiece it was not.

Shaky Bagent

Bagent has had an up-and-down four weeks as the starter. That’s to be expected from any rookie, let alone an undrafted rookie from Division II.

But the first half of Thursday’s game was the worst he has looked to date.

Bagent missed several throws and almost threw multiple picks in the first half, but luckily, the Panthers’ defense could not secure an early game-changing play.

At halftime, Bagent was 14-for-24 for 127 yards. It wasn’t pretty by any standard. And yet, Bagent still thoroughly outplayed Young. The 2023 No. 1 overall pick went just 7-for-14 for 63 yards in the first half as the Panthers’ trainwreck offense struggled to do anything to scare the Bears’ defense.

Bagent didn’t see the field well all night. Once they took the lead on a D’Onta Foreman touchdown run in the third quarter, the Bears mostly took the ball out of his hands. Bagent was off-target all night. He finished the game 20-for-33 for just 162 yards. But he didn’t make the back-breaking mistakes he did in New Orleans to cost the Bears a winnable game.

Bears’ defense wins the day

With the Bears trailing 10-9 at halftime, Bears head coach Matt Eberflus told Amazon sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung they had some things “up their sleeves.”

Eberflus undoubtedly watched the Panthers’ futile attempts to move the ball on his defense throughout the first half and knew he had their number.

The Bears’ defense got after Young all night long at Soldier Field. Outside of one poor drive in the first half, Eberflus’ defense dominated the Panthers’ putrid offensive attack.

The Bears held the Panthers to 213 yards, 3.7 yards per play, and only allowed six offensive points. The Panthers gained just 43 yards on the ground, and the Bears held the Panthers to 2.7 yards per carry. They limited Young to 4.1 yards per attempt. Young finished the game 21-for-38 for 185 yards, most of which came on the Panthers’ final two drives.

Nickelback Kyler Gordon played like a man possessed in coverage, run support, and when blitzing. Jaylon Johnson and Tyrique Stevenson did a good job locking up the Panthers’ punchless receivers on the outside, and the Bears’ much-maligned defensive line harassed Young all night.

Montez Sweat finished the game with XX hurries, while Yannick Ngakoue, Rasheem Green, and Justin Jones each notched sacks.

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