The Carolina Panthers fell just short of a win yet again on Sunday, losing to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field 34-29. Cam Newton had another strong day, passing for 374 yards, 1 TD and one INT. The interception appeared to be not entirely on Newton, however, as the ball was tipped upwards by his receiver. Newton also had a strong day running, going 35 yards on eight carries for two TDs.
The Panthers’ running looked to continue their trend of warming up in week four, with DeAngelo Williams running 82 yards on ten carries and Jonathon Stewart going for 52 yards on eight carries.
Steve Smith also stepped up with yet another huge game, finishing the day with 181 yards on eight catches. Smith has been the safety net (with the exception of TE Greg Olsen) for Newton so far this season, which is something a young QB like Newton will need to fully mature and develop. Smith appears to have taken it on himself to get open when Newton needs it the most, and this will undoubtedly be a huge relationship for the Panthers in the future.
Greg Olsen was the Panthers’ second leading receiver on Sunday, making five catches for 50 yards and a TD on his return to Chicago. Olsen appeared to be jittery and nervous on the first drive, being called for two false-start penalties, but he eventually settled and gave Newton a big target to hit when needed.
The Panthers defense let the team down yet again, however, letting Chicago march down the field for a field goal in the first quarter on only running plays. Special teams was also another area that needed improvements, as was obvious when Chicago’s Devin Hester broke the record for most career NFL punt-return TDs on a 69 yard punt return in the second quarter. Hester had earlier returned a TD 73 yards to set up a Chicago scoring drive.
The Panthers’ next game will be at home on Oct. 9th versus the New Orleans Saints. The defense will no doubt be tested through the passing game by Drew Brees and the explosive offense of the Saints. A win could no doubt hinge on how well the Panthers contain the passing game.