Coach Matt Eberflus was impressed with several aspects of the Bears' performance in Thursday night's 16-13 victory over the Panthers at Soldier Field.
One player in particular that stood out to Eberflus was defensive end Montez Sweat. The fifth-year pro, who was acquired in a trade with the Commanders Oct. 31, was credited with eight pressures and three quarterback hits on rookie Bryce Young in his first Bears home game. Sweat also helped create opportunities for fellow defensive linemen Yannick Ngakoue, Justin Jones and Rasheem Green to record sacks.
"The pressure by the D-line was good," Eberflus said Friday. "Having the effect of 'Tez, the 'Tez Factor,' is a pretty cool thing to see. He had eight quarterback pressures or hits yesterday, and you could feel him forcing those incomplete passes, the hits on the quarterback. That certainly has an effect on their passing game."
The presence of Sweat, who led the Commanders with 6.5 sacks through the first eight games this season, should continue to benefit the Bears pass rush.
"I think he's helping our guys rush," Eberflus said. "We're rotating our guys a little bit better, keeping our guys fresh. I think that's going to be important because you want those rushers in the fourth quarter. The games are always going to be tight, and you want those guys at the end."
Eberflus also lauded the performance of second-year nickel back Kyler Gordon, who compiled eight tackles, two tackles-for-loss, and one pass breakup on a third-down throw that forced the Panthers to settle for a field goal when they trailed 16-10 in the fourth quarter.
"I thought Kyler Gordon played really well," Eberflus said. "He's dynamic. In our scheme, there's been some good nickels that have really taken over the game and done a good job as of recent, too. That's an important position. Those guys are right in the middle of the action. They're right in the middle of the passing game because they're on the strong side of the formation and there's a lot of action there.
"You want playmakers that have really good instincts, and he has that. That's what we liked about him when he came out [of college], and he's proven that since he's been here."
The defense did not allow a touchdown and held the Panthers to 213 total yards, 12 first downs and a 20% success rate on third down (3 of 15). But the outing would have been even better had the unit also taken advantage of its chances to produce a takeaway. Unfortunately, cornerback Tyrique Stevenson and linebacker Jack Sanborn both dropped potential interceptions.
"We've got to get more ball production from the entire defense," Eberflus said. "That's something that we need to work on and get better at. Certainly had opportunities yesterday. We had some missed opportunities. We really have to seize those opportunities."
Check out the best images—taken by Bears photographers—from Thursday night's victory over the Panthers at Soldier Field.
Eberflus noted that Thursday night's win was the first game in which the Bears allowed no sacks, did not commit a turnover and yielded no defensive touchdowns since Dec. 20, 1998, in a 24-3 victory over the Ravens at Soldier Field.
"Those are good numbers," he said. "When you allow zero sacks and zero turnovers, that's a winning formula for really winning football."
One example of complementary football that Eberflus cited occurred in the third quarter with the Bears trailing 10-9.
Trenton Gill boomed a 62-yard punt to the Carolina 9, where Josh Blackwell tackled return specialist Ihmir Smith-Marsette for no gain. The defense followed with a three-and-out, with Gordon tackling Miles Sanders for a 6-yard loss on a run and Ngakoue sacking Young for a loss of five. The offense took over at the Panthers' 38 following a punt and proceeded to score the game's only offensive touchdown on D'Onta Foreman's 4-yard run, giving the Bears a 16-10 lead.
Running back Khalil Herbert practiced in full Wednesday and was listed as questionable for Thursday night's game. But Eberflus said that Herbert was not activated off injured reserve because "he just needed more time." Herbert has now missed the last five games with an ankle injury he sustained Oct. 5 in a win over the Commanders.
Foreman has excelled in his place, rushing for 351 yards and three TDs on 81 carries in those five games. The sixth-year pro ran for 80 yards on 21 attempts Thursday night against the team he played for last season.
"We're certainly excited where Foreman is," Eberflus said. "Foreman's done a really good job of coming in and progressing and improving every single week."