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What we learned in loss to Panthers


Here are four things we learned in Sunday's 31-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers:

1) Turning the ball over is a recipe for disaster. The Bears are 7-0 when winning the turnover battle in two seasons under coach Marc Trestman and they very well could have improved to 8-0 if they hadn't coughed the ball up on each of their final three possessions.

The Panthers scored the tying and winning points late in the fourth quarter after starting drives at the Chicago 32 and 23 following a Jay Cutler interception and Kyle Long fumble. Carolina tied the score 24-24 on Graham Gano's 44-yard field goal without even recording a first down.

"There were many opportunities for us to close it out offensively," said Cutler, who accounted for three turnovers with two interceptions and a lost fumble. "We put our defense in a really bad spot. I thought they played really well given the circumstances and some of the field position we put them in. Offensively, a lot of that was on me. We just have to play better."

The four turnovers were the most the Bears have committed since they also had four last Sept. 29 in a 40-32 loss to the Lions in Detroit, a span of 17 games.

2) Kyle Fuller continues to emerge. The NFL's Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Month for September went head-to-head and Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller outplayed 6-5 Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin, holding him to three receptions for a season-low 38 yards and no touchdowns.

It appeared that Benjamin was about to catch a perfectly-thrown Cam Newton pass deep down the seam in the first quarter. But Fuller knocked the ball out of Benjamin's hands an instant after it arrived, forcing the Panthers to punt. Fuller's only blemish was a pass inference penalty on a fade pass to Benjamin in the end zone.

Asked about Fuller lining up on Benjamin throughout the game, Trestman said: "That's something I couldn't talk about during the week, but just how we matched them up. Benjamin had 11 targets; he had three catches. [Fuller] knocked a ball out of his hands.

"It's a real positive out of [Sunday] that Kyle could match up against a guy that size and really take him out of the game to the degree that he did other than the one red-zone play."

3) The struggles continue on special teams. Physical and mental errors continue to plague the Bears on special teams. The mistakes started early Sunday on a bizarre play in the first quarter when rookie Pat O'Donnell boomed a 63-yard punt.

Teddy Williams, who was signed by the Bears last Wednesday off the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad, drilled return specialist Philly Brown before the punt arrived. The ball hit Williams and rolled on the ground near a pile of players who seemingly thought the play was dead. Brown scooped up the ball and dashed 79 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown.

"He was excited to play," Trestman said. "He's been here [less than a week] and tried to do something good. He got down the field and got a little bit outside of himself there and took a shot. Certainly that's not something we're looking to do."

The Bears committed three penalties on special teams in the first quarter alone, including a personal foul for a blindside hit on Darryl Sharpton that nullified Santonio Holmes' 27-yard punt return.

4) The defensive line rebounded from the Packers game. After generating virtually no pressure on quarterback Aaron Rodgers in a discouraging 38-17 loss to Green Bay a week earlier, the Bears defensive line came to play Sunday in Carolina.

Willie Young forced a fumble with a blindside sack of Newton and Lamarr Houston recovered at the Carolina 13. Three plays later, Cutler's 10-yard touchdown pass to Forte gave the Bears a 14-7 lead. Young now has a career-high five sacks, tied for second most in the NFL.

Stephen Paea recorded his third sack of the season when he dropped Newton for an eight-yard loss on third-and-five from the Chicago 35 on the final play of the third quarter. With the Bears leading 24-21 at the time, the sack pushed Carolina out of range of a possible game-tying field goal.

After missing the Packers game with pneumonia, defensive end Jared Allen returned Sunday and led the Bears with seven tackles. Rookie defensive tackle Ego Ferguson deflected passes on back-to-back plays, the second of which resulted in an interception by linebacker Lance Briggs.

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