By Adam Hoge-
SOLDIER FIELD (CBS) Yards and points were hard to come by for most of the game and then, suddenly, it was easy.
After the Bears offense failed to get anything going for most of the game, they marched down the field with no problem on their last two possessions of the game, allowing them to steal a 23-22 win over the Panthers at home.
After the game, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall seemed somewhat surprised at the coverage the Panthers used on the Bears’ game-winning drive, when the quarterback completed 6-of-7 passes, including four to Marshall.
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“They were playing one coverage and we just kept hitting them and hitting them and hitting them. That’s pretty much it,” Cutler said.
The Panthers played off of Marshall, allowing Cutler to hit repeated short slants to his No. 1 wide receiver.
“If (they changed coverages) we were going to have Earl (Bennett) down the pipe so we were waiting for them to cheat a little bit to my side and we were going to take advantage of Earl in the slot,” Marshall said. “They didn’t do that and we just stuck to it. So if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
The soft coverage helped the Bears get in position for Robbie Gould’s game-winning 41-yard field goal. Earlier in the quarter, Gould missed a 33-yarder in the same direction.
“Robbie Gould won’t miss a lot of field goals and that’s why it was important for us to get him back into position,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “I’ve been on the sideline a lot of times when he’s kicked the winning field goal.”
Cutler Plays Through Rib Injury
Cutler didn’t come into Sunday’s game pain-free after suffering bruised ribs last week against the Lions, and it didn’t help when he took some big hits early in the game.
“Ah no,” Cutler said when asked if the injury affected him. “Didn’t really feel them. No one played well. I didn’t play well. It starts with me.”
Cutler was sacked six times in the first half and while the offensive line didn’t play well, he could have avoided a few of them by getting rid of the ball.
“I always feel like I can avoid them,” he said. “Didn’t move as well as I thought I wanted to. I need to take a look at the film and see where the holes were.”
But despite the bad first three quarters of the game, Cutler still came through when it mattered most, completing 14 of his final 16 passes.
“When you’re a great quarterback, most of the time in the league it’s going to come down — no matter what happens early on — to what you do in the fourth quarter, what you do with two minutes left to go in the game,” Lovie Smith said.
Jennings Does It Again
After Charles Tillman successfully shut down Calvin Johnson last week, the Bears elected to put the smaller, quicker Tim Jennings on Steve Smith Sunday. The move made a lot of sense since they are similar in stature and while Smith got his catches in (seven for 118 yards), Jennings did enough to keep him out of the end zone.
“I thought he did a great job,” Lovie Smith said. “Steve Smith had some plays, of course he’s a great player too.”
Ultimately it was Jennings that came up with the biggest play of the game when Smith slipped on the turf, allowing the cornerback to pick off Cam Newton and return it for a touchdown, giving the Bears a 20-19 lead.
“That’s our mentality,” Jennings said, adding that Newton was locked in on Smith. “Every time we’re out there we feel like we have to get some takeaways. Any time we get our hands on the ball we want to score because that’s going to give us a better chance to win.”
No Ugly Wins
The Bears did win, and while it wasn’t pretty, Lovie Smith doesn’t care.
“There’s no such thing as an ugly win,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “To me, the team that deserve the win always end up on top at the end.”
The Bears came out of Sunday’s game pretty clean. Both Brandon Marshall and Earl Bennett got dinged up, but they are fine.
Marshall said his leg got banged up and he “felt a little tweak, but it’s one of those things where you just have to walk it off and it goes away.” It did go away and he looked great on the Bears’ final possession.
Bennett took an awkward hit to his back on the last drive but said he just had the wind knocked out of him.
For more Bears coverage throughout the season, follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamHogeCBS.