A strong performance by the defense and a go-ahead touchdown by D'Onta Foreman propelled the Bears to a 16-13 win over the Panthers Thursday night at Soldier Field.
The Bears defense held Carolina without a touchdown while permitting only 213 total yards and 12 first downs and registering three sacks.
Foreman scored the game's only offensive touchdown on a 4-yard run that gave the Bears a 16-10 lead midway through the third quarter. It came on a drive that had started at the Panthers' 38 after the defense forced a three-and-out inside Carolina's 10.
Eddy Piñeiro's 39-yard field goal cut the deficit to 16-13 early in the fourth quarter, but his potential game-tying 59-yard attempt fell well short with 1:35 remaining.
With the victory, the Bears improved to 3-7 and are 3-3 since their 0-4 start.
"I really thought that we played some good complementary football," said coach Matt Eberflus. "I really thought that the defense did a really good job of creating some short fields for our offense most of the day, and that was good. We capitalized on some of them. It was that kind of game. Both defenses played well today. I think overall we handled it well and put ourselves in position to win the game."
After committing five turnovers in last Sunday's loss to the Saints, the Bears offense played a clean game with no turnovers and no sacks allowed. Quarterback Tyson Bagent, making his fourth straight start in place of the injured Justin Fields, completed 20 of 33 passes for 162 yards and a 73.0 passer rating.
"He's always done a really good job of avoiding sacks through the course of the four games that he's played," Eberflus said. "What he did well today is he didn't put the ball in harm's way and gave us a chance to win."
Two former Panthers helped fuel the Bears offense, with Foreman rushing for 80 yards on 21 carries and DJ Moore catching five passes for a game-high 58 yards.
The Bears defensive line generated consistent pressure on quarterback Bryce Young, with tackle Justin Jones and ends Yannick Ngakoue and Rasheem Green registering sacks. End Montez Sweat recorded three quarterback hits.
The Panthers took a 7-0 lead on Ihmir Smith-Marsette's 79-yard punt return touchdown midway through the first quarter. Smith-Marsette, who played six games for the Bears last season, broke three tackles en route to his first career return TD.
Carolina extended its lead to 10-3 on Pineiro's 33-yard field goal early in the second period. The kick was set up by Young's 45-yard completion to receiver Mike Strachan to the Chicago 26.
Santos answered with two more field goals, a 36-yarder with 3:06 left in the second quarter, and a 39-yarder as time expired in the half, drawing the Bears to within 10-9. The second came after Bagent had engineered a 9-play, 70-yard drive in just 1:12.
"I'm certainly proud of the guys the way they handled the end of the half," Eberflus said. "Really did a good job of taking the two-minute down there. Bagent did a really good job there."
The Bears defense opened the second half by forcing two three-and-outs. After the second, Foreman's 4-yard touchdown run gave the Bears a 16-10 lead. The game's first offensive TD came with 6:33 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers cut the deficit to 16-13 on Piñeiro's 30-yard field goal with 11:06 to play in the fourth quarter. The kick came after Gordon broke up Young's third-down pass intended for receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. that would have resulted in a first down. Gordon also registered eight tackles and two tackles-for-loss in the game.
After Pineiro's late miss, the Bears ran out the clock, clinching the win on Bagent's 8-yard pass to Darnell Mooney on third-and-7 from the Carolina 48.
Eberflus explained why the Bears chose to pass instead of run the ball on the play.
"If you decide to run at that time, you're going to have to punt and pin and they're going to have 1:10 with no timeouts and hopefully on the 10-yard line if we punt it right," Eberflus said.
"We liked the play call. We discussed it and we went for it. We executed it well. Mooney made a beautiful catch. He was one yard past the stick and sealed the game. Really good play call by Luke [Getsy]. Excellent execution by the O-line, the entire offense and Mooney on the catch and Bagent on the throw."