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Chicago Bears Look To Bring The Heat In Windy City Matchup Against Carolina Panthers

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By Ted Fleming

If the Carolina Panthers had their pick of any team in the NFL to begin the long road back from a devastating 1-5 start, the Chicago Bears would not have been at the top of their list; maybe not on it at all. But that is what they are faced with Sunday when they take on a team that has a record opposite theirs and a smothering defense that even gives top flight teams fits.  

On paper, the Panthers’ chances of knocking off the Bears at home could be listed as slim to none, but you still have to play the game.  While it is clear the visitors have to break out some sort of ground game, Chicago could care less whether Carolina has two top flight backs, Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, and a quarterback, Cam Newton, that can take off at the drop of a hat, because they are the top rated run defense.

big d Chicago Bears Look To Bring The Heat In Windy City Matchup Against Carolina Panthers

(Credit,Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Here is a look at the team who expects to be 6-1 when the final gun sounds.

Chicago Bears by the Numbers
2012 Record: 5-1
Record vs. Panthers: 4-3
Streak vs. Panthers: W2
Last Meeting: Bears 34, Panthers 29 (October 2, 2011)
Next Game: Sunday at Soldier Field, Chicago (61,500) @ 1 p.m.

Offense: As strange as it may sound, quarterback Jay Cutler has the highest passer rating in Bears history, and at 81.6 it is slightly above the 78.3 he will come into the game on Sunday. The 29-year old is in his seventh season – fourth in the Windy City – and is coming off a low scoring win over the Lions where he went just 16-31 for 150 yards. However, he has shown that against average defenses, he can put up some stunning numbers, as witness by a 41-3 shellacking of the Jaguars and a 34-18 drubbing of the Cowboys in the two weeks before the bye.

Cutler has some help in the backfield with a two-headed monster named Matt Forte (366-yards) and Michael Bush (242) leading a 9th rated running attack. Brando Marshall is Mr. Reliable at wide receiver with 41 receptions for 577 yards and 4 TDs. The trio and Cutler can savage any defense so the Panthers will have their work cut out for them if they hope to keep the score close and have a shot at a victory.        

Defense: Former Panther Julius Peppers may not be the player he was in Charlotte but he is still a factor because he has 3.5 sacks to his credit which is tied for second on the Bears. He is one of five players on the team who have at least 2.5 sacks. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton will have to have his head on a swivel to stay upright against the likes of Peppers, Henry Melton, Israel Idonije, Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin.

There is no doubt that Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski will try to take the pressure off their struggling second year quarterback by putting more emphasis on the ground game but when the Bears give up just 71 yards a game. And Newton could have a tough day in the air as Chicago has 14 interceptions to their credit led by Tim Jennings’ four. The offense is having a fine season but you might look at the defense who have put up a lot of points on their own turning five of those picks into touchdowns.   

Statistical Comparisons: The defensive minded Bears are ranked much higher than the Panthers, if you can believe it, in points per game. Chicago is averaging 27 ppg which is eighth in the NFL and nearly ten points more than 28th ranked Carolina (17.6). All other offensive categories are relatively close to being even. The biggest difference between the two clubs is on defense where the Bears hold a significant edge in most areas.  

Connections:
Panthers –  Head coach Ron Rivera played for the Bears from 1984-92, was the Bears defensive quality control coach from 1997-98 and was the Bears defensive coordinator from 2004-06.
Assistant wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl played for the Bears in 1997.
Defensive line coach Eric Washington coached with the Bears from 2008-10.
Defensive assistant/coaching intern Bobby Babich is the son of Bears linebackers coach Bob Babich.
Tight end Greg Olsen was drafted in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Bears and started 39 games.  
Bears – Defensive end Julius Peppers began his NFL career with the Panthers playing for the team from 2002-09.

For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Panthers news, see CBS Sports Charlotte.

Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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