1. The Panthers gameplan was better than the Bears.
Carolina played good enough to win this game, but lost it in the end. Stop me if you have heard this before. The gameplan was shifted from the normal spread offense that the Panthers normally run to a more traditional-style scheme to help quarterback, Cam Newton with his reads and to also hopefully spring a more efficient rushing attack.
On defense, Carolina played aggressive with Chicago's wide receivers in a bump-and-run style and brought extra blitzers to get after quarterback, Jay Cutler. It worked. At least in the first half. The Panthers went away from it in the second half and on the final possession for the Bears the Panther's coaches elected to sit in soft coverage with no blitzers. And it got them beat.
2. New running game implemented by Carolina.
The Panthers were able to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark with 119 on the ground lead by running back, Jonathan Stewart who rushed 17 times for 42 yards. Cam Newton had five carries for 37 yards and backup running back, DeAngelo Williams was mixed in with some wildcat formations and ended up with 33 yards.
It may not seem like much, but against the best defensive team again the run in the NFL, it was a major improvement. Fullback Mike Tolbert was brought in as a lead back in i-formations and the Panthers used a fury of two-tight end sets to help block.
3. The Bears took the Panthers too lightly.
Rather they were looking ahead to next week's opponent or just didn't put in the work this week, Chicago did not look like they were ready to play Carolina. The Panthers are one of the worst teams in the NFC, if not the entire NFL at this point, and the Bears are one the best. You have to be able shut these teams out and show the NFL you are for real. Chicago did anything but in this one and were extremely lucky to escape with a victory.
4. Panthers find a pass rush.
Defensive end, Greg Hardy was benched earlier in the week by the coaching staff for not putting forth great effort in practice and having a lackadaisical attitude. He responded with a three sack performance (all in the first half) and finished with five tackles.
Not only was Hardy effective, but the rest of the Panthers defensive line was generating substantial pass rush and making Cutler flustered for most of the game. The defense finished with six sacks, all by the defensive line. Chicago's first, first down didn't come until late in the fourth quarter.
5. Newton is still struggling with accuracy and reading defenses.
Sure, Chicago is the windy city and yes, the winds were in the double-digits mph range, but Newton's throws today and all year for that matter, have been high and off-target. Most people note that Newton's mechanics have regressed, others say it's because he's throwing to a 5'9" receiver half the time. Whatever it is, Newton needs to work on it.
His inconsistency with his throws have been one of numerous things that have plagued the Panthers all season long and it's something that needs to be patched up if you want better results on third downs and keeping drives alive. Newton finished with 314 passing yards, but had two costly interceptions. One interception came late in the fourth quarter and was returned for a touchdown by cornerback, Tim Jennings.
Next up: Chicago Bears @ Tennessee Titans 11/04 1 p.m.
Carolina Panthers @ Washington Redskins 11/04 1 p.m.