Two things, above all else, stood out during this game. The first was that the game played out almost precisely as I thought it would. The final score was 20-17 — and I predicted 20-16 — and the Bears ultimately couldn’t handle the Panthers’ run game. The second thing that stood out was mental breakdowns, which proves that this team, although competitive, still is going through a learning curve.
We can’t have Greg Olsen fumbling twice in one game. He needs to learn to protect the ball better when he makes a catch. We also need to be more consistent offensively. The Bears had several successful drives that helped them take time off the clock, but the problem was that they all occurred early in the game. We needed to see the same effort throughout the entire game. Brad Maynard’s leg may very well be dead. When the Bears’ offense was backed into a corner, we needed him to punt the ball deep to re-establish field position and he couldn’t do it.
As expected, we were able to see how Kyle Orton played when the Bears were playing from behind. We knew they could play well with a lead because we saw it last week against the Colts. And as we saw against the Panthers, he didn’t fare too well. But can you blame him for playing so poorly when the Bears were trailing? The Bears had a nice balance of playcalling throughout the game, but when you call on a guy to make a few plays in a time of need, and he hasn’t gotten into any kind of rhythm throughout the game, can you expect anything else but trouble?
I hope what this game does is serve as an example to Bears fans out there that there still is work to be done. I know that there was an emotional high last week when the Bears beat the heavily-favored Colts and suddenly the talk around town was, “This team is going all the way!” This is a young team — at least on offense — and there are going to be growing pains like there was today. After all, this Bears team lost the game, but they didn’t get beat. The difference, you ask? They gave the game to the Panthers; the Panthers didn’t earn it.
But let’s try to look at the positive at this point. The Bears are 1-1, when many people, myself included, thought they’d be 0-2. They finally head to Chicago for their first home game and it very well could be a date with Brian Griese. Their next four games are at home vs. Tampa Bay, at home vs. Philadelphia, at Detroit, and at Atlanta. The Eagles will be a tough game, but the Bears realistically can win 3 of their next 4 games. This team could be 4-2 before you know it.
Keep your heads up, Bears fans. It’s a bitter loss when you give away a game you weren’t supposed to win but one in which you could have and should have won after it began.
Things could have been worse.