Panthers prey on defenseless Bears

first_imgCHICAGO – Over and over, Brian Urlacher used the same word: frustrating. The NFL defensive player of the year was mystified about why – for the first time all season – the Chicago Bears were defenseless. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa AnitaThe toughest defense in the league to score on during the regular season, a unit that carried Chicago to its first playoff appearance in four seasons and dominated Jake Delhomme and Carolina two months ago, could do nothing to stop the Panthers. Delhomme completed 24 of 33 passes for 319 yards with three touchdowns and Steve Smith caught 12 passes for a career-high 218 yards. After sacking Delhomme eight times in a 13-3 win in November, the Bears managed just one sack on Sunday and allowed more yards than they had in any game this season. A Chicago team that earned a first-round bye looked rusty from not having played in a few weeks and was fortunate to be trailing just 16-7 at halftime. “Maybe we shouldn’t get a bye week anymore,” Urlacher said. “We didn’t have any three-and-outs, a lot of takeaways, a lot of sacks,” Urlacher said. “That’s what we thrive on.” Instead, the Carolina Panthers thrived, reeling off 434 yards in a 29-21 victory over the Bears on Sunday in the NFC divisional playoffs. center_img In his first playoff appearance, Rex Grossman was 17 of 41 for 192 yards for the Bears. He started the game with five incompletions. “They did a great job of mixing up blitzes and looks,” he said. “It took me awhile to get adjusted to seeing exactly what their plan was.” Brad Maynard had 19- and 13-yard punts in the first half. And cornerback Charles Tillman had a rough game from the start. Tillman fell and watched Smith break for a 58-yard touchdown reception on the game’s second play from scrimmage. It was a bad beginning for a team that was making its first postseason appearance since a 14-point loss at home to Philadelphia after a bye following the 2001 season. And it was a tough end to an unexpected run to the playoffs. After three losing seasons and a 1-3 start, the Bears finished 11-5 during the regular season. “We’re extremely mad and hurt,” Grossman said. “But the only way to look at it is as a learning experience.” Urlacher provided one of the Bears’ few bright spots when he ended a Panthers’ scoring threat with a leaping, one-handed interception at the 7-yard line. Otherwise, the defense provided few highlights. The pressure simply wasn’t there. But it was clear this wasn’t their day, starting with Tillman’s slip. “In a situation like that, I would have never expected him to stumble,” defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. Tillman’s day didn’t get much better after that slip. With the ball on the 48, Delhomme launched a pass toward the end zone late in the first quarter. Tillman and Smith, like rebounders, went up for the ball. Tillman had it in his hands, but Smith ripped it away on the way down, giving Carolina possession at the 2. The Panthers settled for a field goal, making it 10-0 three seconds into the second quarter. Later, Tillman failed to recover a fumble on a drive that ended with a Carolina field goal. “You’re matched against one of the top players in the league, you’re going to get beat sometimes,” Rivera said. “I thought he did a tremendous job in some situations. On that one, he stumbled and gave up that play.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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