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updated: 10/2/2011 9:48 PM

A good Bears win? It's a reach

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  • Panthers quarterback Cam Newton pushes away the Bears' defense Sunday as he scores a first-quarter touchdown.

      Panthers quarterback Cam Newton pushes away the Bears' defense Sunday as he scores a first-quarter touchdown.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 

For entertainment value, Sunday's 34-29 victory was outstanding, with Matt Forte's explosiveness in the run game, Devin Hester's continued brilliance in the return game and a defensive touchdown.

But it didn't do much to establish the Bears as a playoff contender or a team that can win with its defense, considering it was torched by the Carolina Panthers for an embarrassing 543 total yards and was equally ineffective against the run and the pass.

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"We're not apologizing at all about this win," Bears coach Lovie Smith said, even before he could be asked. "We feel really good about it."

That might be a stretch.

The Bears were outgained by 226 yards. They didn't sack rookie quarterback Cam Newton once, even though he threw 46 passes and ran eight times for 35 yards, and they couldn't cover wide receiver Steve Smith.

"We didn't do as well as we could, but we won," said nickel corner D.J. Moore, who got the Bears' only turnover of the day when he picked off Newton and scampered 20 yards for a touchdown. "If we did great and lost, it would be even worse."

And it would have left the Bears (2-2) in an almost inescapable hole in the NFC North, considering Green Bay and Detroit both are 4-0.

The Bears again didn't do a very good job of protecting quarterback Jay Cutler, who was sacked just once, but that was mostly because offensive coordinator Mike Martz called for just 17 passes.

Cutler had a passer rating of only 46.7 against what should not be mistaken for one of the NFL's better defenses.

He completed 9 of 17 passes for 102 yards and was intercepted once on a ball thrown way over the head of intended target tight end Kyle Adams early in the fourth quarter.

The Panthers, trailing just 24-23, took over on the Bears' 29 but moved backward 5 yards before Olindo Mare was just short on a 52-yard FG that would have given the Panthers the lead.

The Bears also benefited from an offensive pass interference penalty against Panthers tight end Jeremy Shockey midway through the third quarter that nullified an apparent Carolina TD.

They came away empty on that drive when Julius Peppers blocked Mare's 34-yard, chip-shot field-goal attempt.

"These games happen," Cutler said. "You have to manage the ballgame. I wish I could have that pick back, but it happened. When we were running the football, if we were going to throw on third down, we just had to try to fit it into a spot and get it to the right guy, and we were able to do that enough times to get the 'W.'"

It was a victory that left the Bears more relieved than encouraged, especially on defense.

"We weren't completely happy overall with our defense, but just to be able to grind it out and come out with a 'W' at the end it's a little bit more relief," cornerback Tim Jennings said. "But we're not satisfied at all."

They shouldn't be after permitting Newton to throw for 374 yards, Steve Smith to catch 8 passes for 181 yards and the Panthers to rush for 169 yards while averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

Carolina came in as the NFL's No. 24 rushing team.

"I don't really care because we won," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "I'll be (ticked) off when we watch the film. But right now we won, so it's not a big deal to me."

Maybe it should be, considering the undefeated Lions and quarterback Matthew Stafford are up next.

•Follow Bob's Bears reports via Twitter @BobLeGere and check out our Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com.

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