Bears Notebook: Final thoughts on the Bears-Panthers game

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I wish I could have been a fly on the wall during conversations that took place between Lovie Smith and Mike Martz any time after the Saints and Packers games. I’m curious to know whether the Bears’ complete reversal in play calling on Sunday against the Panthers from the previous two weeks was a mandate from Smith or whether the crafty offensive-minded Martz saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.

The game plan remarkably resembled what the Bears had used throughout the second half of the 2010 season, a heavy dose of Matt Forte mixed in with a few shots from Jay Cutler. That Martz didn’t call one pass play on the Bears first drive of the game showed a dramatic shift from the play calling that got Cutler sacked 14 times in the first three games and roughed up on a number of other plays.

For the Bears to have any success moving the ball and protecting Cutler’s health, we’ll need to see a lot more games in which Forte carries the ball more than 18 times. Unfortunately, that type of conservative offense in which the Bears choose to limit their passing game because the line can’t sustain its blocks for more than two and a half seconds doesn’t inspire confidence in the Bears’ prospects for competing for the playoffs and the Super Bowl.

Running teams with good quarterbacks can win a Super Bowl, but only if the defense is among the best in the league. Right now, the Bears are ranked 31st on defense, so they’re going to have to pass the ball and put more points on the board.

Devin Hester’s penalty dumb, not costly

For the second straight week, Devin Hester picked up a dumb penalty after failing to keep his emotions in check. Last week against the Packers, it was anger and frustration that led him to take a swing at a defender and pick up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. This week, it was elation after his record-breaking punt return touchdown that led him to do three somersaults in the end zone and get flagged for illegal demonstration.

While some want to crucify Hester for his dumb penalty and blame him for the Panthers’ ensuing touchdown, I’m going to cut him some slack.

The penalty was dumb, yes, but it was the defense’s own fault for allowing the Panthers offense to drive 64 yards for the touchdown.

Marion Barber’s backflip was ill-advised

If you’re really looking for someone or something dumb, look no further than Marion Barber and his backflip in the end zone after his first touchdown as a Bear late in the game.

Not only did Barber look silly after falling on his face, but he shouldn’t be doing flips after missing the last month with a calf injury.

Fortunately, no harm came from the move because Barber will be needed to help complement Forte in this new emphasis on the run game.

Cam Newton is the real deal

Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton threw 46 passes on Sunday and the Bears failed to sack him once. They hardly knocked him down, either. Newton made his fair share of mistakes including a couple overthrows that nearly were picked off in addition to the forced pass that was deflected and intercepted by D.J. Moore, who took it back for a touchdown.

What was discouraging was the Bears had Newton in their sights on a number of plays but could not bring him down. The most notable missed sack was by Matt Toeaina, who made a nice move to get by his blocker but ran right past Newton in the backfield and missed badly on an arm tackle attempt.

My first instinct after Newton got off to a hot start this season by throwing back-to-back 400-plus yard games was that he was just a gifted athletic rookie whom the Cardinals and Packers were not prepared to defend. After seeing some of the great throws he made against the Bears, this guy has proven that he is the real deal and could have a productive NFL career if the Panthers keep talent around him.

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