The Panthers Set for Defensive Clash in Chicago

Sharon Thorsland
October 20, 2017 - 8:44 am

USA Today Images


Two of the top defenses in the league face off Sunday in the Windy City, where the Panthers take on the Chicago Bears and former coach John Fox. The Panthers boast the NFL'S 4th ranked unit, while the Bears are 6th in the league allowing just 302 yards a game. The Bears are coming off an overtime win at Baltimore to move to 2-4 on the season, while the Panthers are 4-2 after a Thursday night loss to the Eagles.

As is typical of John Fox-coached teams, the Bears have a strong defense and a solid running game. They're leaning on the running game more than ever this season since they're starting a rookie at quarterback. After parting ways with Jay Cutler, the Bears started the season with former NC State standout Mike Glennon running the offense. But he was benched after struggling through four games in favor of number two overall draft pick Mitchell (formerly known as Mitch) Trubisky. The former Tar Heel has been solid in two starts, throwing for 241 yards and two touchdowns. While those numbers aren't exactly eye-popping, he's impressed fellow Tar Heel alum and Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers. “I think he's playing pretty good for the position that he's in,” said Peppers. “Lot of ability, somewhat of a dual threat – he's more of a passer but he can run and do things with his legs.”

The Bears let Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffrey leave in free agency and his replacement Markus Wheaton is out with a groin injury. So Trubisky relies on former Titan Kendall Wright, third year player Joshua Bellamy and rookie Tanner Gentry. Tight ends Dion Sims and Zach Miller have combined for three touchdowns.

The Bears have an outstanding 1-2 punch at running back. Jordan Howard and rookie Tarik Cohen have earned the nickname “Thunder and Lightning,” and between them average 136 yards per game, that's 3rd in the NF. Cohen played at North Carolina A&T, and is similar to Darren Sproles – he's only 5'6 but has game breaking speed. He's a dual threat, leading the Bears with 26 catches, and he even threw a touchdown pass in the win over the Ravens. Howard is a big, bruising back who leads the Bears with 495 yards and four touchdowns. “He's a very explosive back and has great patience and vision,” said Panther defensive end West Horton. “And Cohen is a speed guy. Gotta have all 11 hats to the ball with a guy who's that fast.”

Howard and Cohen will face a Panthers defense that has been outstanding against the run, allowing just 83 yards per game.

The Bears' defense is middle of the pack when it comes to stopping the run, which is good news for the Panthers since they've had trouble getting anything going on the ground recently. The Bears run a 3-4 scheme, led by by 332 pound defensive end Akiem Hicks, he has five sacks. Linebacker Danny Trevathan leads the team in tackles. Outside backers Phernell McPhee and Leonard Floyd each have three sacks.

The Bears' secondary is aggressive, anchored by veteran cornerbacks Marcus Cooper and Prince Amukamara and third year player Kyle Fuller. Safety Quinton Demps is out for the season with a broken arm so rookie Eddie Jackson starts with Adrian Amos, who had a 90-yard pick six last week. 

This is a big game for the Panthers, who want to rebound from the loss to the Eagles. It's another conference game, they want to stay undefeated on the road, and at the same time pick up their first regular season win ever at Soldier Field. “We want to get back on track,” said Horton. “We feel like there were a lot of opportunities to win that Eagles game and we felt like we came up short. But we gotta get back on track.”



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