Bears studs and duds in win over Panthers on Thursday Night Football originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Bears are back in the win column, and they helped their chances of securing the No. 1 overall pick in the process. The offense wasn’t electric, but they didn’t turn the ball over. The defense allowed the Panthers to move the ball with ease late in the game, but they made plays when they needed to and managed to keep points off the board throughout the night. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was enough. Here’s who were the best performers and guys who weren’t as great in the 16-13 victory.
When the Bears signed Yannick Ngakoue over the summer, the thought was he could boost the team’s pass rush single-handedly. It didn’t work out that way, though. The defensive line still struggled to get home with any consistency over the first half of the season. So Ryan Poles made a big move to acquire and extend Montez Sweat, and Sweat’s presence seems to have helped Ngakoue. The two defensive ends pressured Bryce Young early and often on Thursday night, but it was Ngakoue who stuffed the stat sheet a bit more. He ended the night with one sack and one TFL. He was impressive both on stunts, and in pursuit, making stops from behind the play.
Santos remains the most consistent player on the Bears this season. The kicker was money, as always, and he connected on all three of his field goal attempts and his lone PAT, including a 54-yarder. What made that kick even more impressive was that Santos had to hit for a second snap in a row. For a moment it looked like Santos had gotten the Bears on the board with a 49-yard kick, but Cody Whitehair moved too fast and was flagged for a false start. Santos had to try again from 54. Obviously, it was no bother to the veteran.
One could argue that the biggest disruptor at the line of scrimmage wasn’t a defensive lineman, it was nickel back Kyler Gordon. He was active right at the sticks throughout the night, both in run defense and pass defense. Gordon showed great instincts to make plays on the ball and was probably the best tackler on the entire team. More on that later. Gordon was flagged for illegal contact on a third-and-three play that otherwise would have been a defensive stop, but at first glance it might have been a soft call.
Bagent looked as uncomfortable and inaccurate as he has all season on Thursday night. It’s unclear if the rookie quarterback was a little hesitant after his four-turnover game in Week 9, but he only took a few shots down the field throughout the game. At times, Bagent appeared to have open receivers streaking vertically, but Bagent either didn’t see them or didn’t like what he saw. Instead, Bagent opted for check downs and modest scrambles. Bagent didn’t turn the ball over, which was good, but he didn’t make many high-impact plays either.
Brisker returned to the Bears starting lineup after missing the previous week with a concussion and looked a little rusty. The normally sure tackler whiffed on a couple of stops in run defense. Brisker’s worst missed tackle came on a Bryce Young scramble early in the game. It appeared Brisker had Young dead to rights on third down, but he let Young escape for a first down. Brisker was also the man in coverage on a deep pass to practice squad call up Mike Strachan that set up a Panthers field goal.
Once again, the Bears let ball carriers slip through their fingers too many times. The worst moment was Ihmir Smith-Marsette’s punt return touchdown when a host of Bears failed to make a stop. This has been a consistent issue for the team all season and reflects poorly on both the players and coaches.
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