The Carolina Panthers rode two Josh Norman interceptions, one on Jay Cutler's first pass of the game and the second for a 60-yard touchdown to defeat the Chicago Bears 24-10 on Friday in Charlotte.
For a first preseason game both teams played at a good pace with relatively few penalties committed, both the Bears and Panthers were called for five penalties for 44 yards.
There were positives on both sides that both teams can build on in practice next week. The Bears forced four turnovers including an interception by rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic that he returned 51 yards for a touchdown.
The Panthers overwhelmed the Bears' work-in-progress offensive line with 6.5 sacks for 56 yards and forced three turnovers of their own. They also converted both of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns. The Bears were 1-3 in the red zone.
Now that the excitement of the first football game of the season has eased, and knee-jerk reactions have turned to more reasoned reflection, here are five things we learned from the opening efforts of the preseason.
1) The Bears' offense can run the slant pass to the left.
Now they have to go to work on the rest of the offense. After the game, Jay Cutler took responsibility for the first play interception. On review, Jeffery did stop his route but the play appeared designed for him to reverse field as the defense converged on the middle. Cutler acknowledged that he should have thrown the ball on the outside shoulder to allow Jeffery to break the play outside.
Another positive was a swing pass to Matt Forte. The play only went for five yards but it's the principle that's important. One aspect of their offense in 2011 that the Bears seemed to forget in 2012 is that Matt Forte is at his best when he gets the ball in the open field.
At the time when Forte injured his knee in 2011 he was leading the NFL in all-purpose yardage. In 2012 he finished far out of the top 10 with 1,434 combined yards.
2) The Panthers' defense looks ready to step up their game.
The Panthers were No. 18 in points allowed and turnovers in 2012. They were also No. 19 in TD passes and rushing touchdowns allowed. On Friday night their defense was agressively swarming to the ball all game.
They held the Bears to a field goal after Zack Bowman's interception set the them up on the Panthers' 36 yard line. Chicago could only move the ball 16 yards in 6 plays on their drive.
The only other scoring drive the Panthers allowed was early in the fourth quarter, 3 plays for 58 yards and a touchdown highlighted by Marquess Wilson outracing the Panthers' secondary to the 4 yard line.
3) Rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic can play.
That's not saying he's ready to start yet but the second round draft choice showed flashes of what he can be for the Bears.
He was late getting to Brandon LaFell on Carolina's first quarter touchdown but quickly made up for it.
On the Panthers' next possession Bostic read Cam Newton's eyes to put himself in perfect position for his interception and touchdown return.
4) Both teams have backup quarterback problems.
The Bears and Panthers need to hope that Jay Cutler and Cam Newton defy the odds and can start all 16 games of their seasons in 2013.
For the Bears, Josh McCown played the second quarter and could only manage 3 completions in 8 attempts for 27 yards. Matt Blanchard received extended playing time in the second half with mixed results. He did lead the Bears on their only touchdown drive of the night but also looked flustered and indecisive in the face of Carolina's pass rush.
The positive on Blanchard is Friday night's effort is the first extended in-game film that he's generated. He and the Bears have a chance to analyze Blanchard's current ability and teach from there.
For the Panthers, Derek Anderson's passing was wildly innacurate in the second quarter. The interception he threw looked like a designed pass to Bears' cornerback Zack Bowman. Anderson did partially redeem himself at the end of the first half with a 14 play, 82 yard drive capped by a Kenjon Barner touchdown to give Carolina the lead for good 14-10.
5) Players who moved up, and down, the depth chart.
For the Bears:
Up - Marquess Wilson, wide receiver - Wilson earned himself an extensive preseason look after leading the team with 4 catches for 82 yards.
Up - Michael Ford, running back - Ford only gained 15 yards on six carries but also caught three passes for 35 yards. Hran with a purpose behind the Bears third and fourth string offensive line and bulled his way over the goal line from four yards out in the fourth quarter.
Up - Sherrick McManis, cornerback - Added himself to the competition for a roster spot in the Bears secondary with a fumble caused and recovered along with two tackles and an assist.
Down - Shea McClellin, defensive end - In extended play he was manhandled and had no impact while third stringer Cornelius Washington looked like he's ready to make the most of his opportunities.
Down - Armando Allen, running back - As he's been doing in camp, lost a fumble in the red zone during the second quarter to kill a scoring drive.
Down - J'Marcus Webb & Ebon Britton, tackles - Unfortunately for the Bears, with Jonathan Scott struggling with a knee injury neither Webb or Britton have anywhere to fall.
For the Panthers:
Up - Kenjon Barner, running back - Barner put one on the ground also but made up for it with 9 carries for 39 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers are looking for a speed option in the backfield and early indications are they may have found it.
Up - Anderson Russell, safety - Forced and recovered the Armando Allen fumble and led the Panthers with 5 tackles and 1 assist. Doesn't appear the fourth string can hold him.
Down - Derek Anderson, quarterback - Jimmy Clausen played well enough to put doubt in Carolina's minds about Anderson's ability to be Newton's primary backup.