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CHICAGO — It wasn’t pretty, but the Chicago Bears won’t complain about their 16-13 victory over the Panthers at Soldier Field on Thursday Night Football.
“It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but we found a way to win, and that’s all that matters in this league,” wide receiver DJ Moore said. “We gotta figure it out this next game.”
The final reception perfectly represents how this prime-time matchup played out. With the Bears facing a third-and-7 from the Panthers’ 48-yard line with just 1:26 left in the game, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy put the game-sealing play in Tyson Bagent’s hands.
Getsy called a pass with the Bears up by three, and Bagent delivered a ball to Darnell Mooney in between two Panthers defenders. Mooney caught the ball right on the 39-yard line and then braced himself for a hit by linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill. Mooney somehow secured the catch for an 8-yard gain to move the chains.
Lucas Patrick and Equanimeous St. Brown went to help Mooney off the ground, and then Patrick lifted Mooney in the air, knowing that his reception sealed the Bears the victory.
“Hell of a job by Mooney, man,” Moore said. “That hit was crazy and he found a way to catch the ball and end the game, so I’m glad.”
The play was actually a similar concept the Bears ran earlier in the game. Late in the third quarter, Tyson Bagent completed a pass to Trent Taylor, but it was taken away by Moore’s offensive pass interference call.
Bagent said after the game that they “knew the play was effective, so we went back to it.”
“We liked the play call,” Matt Eberflus said. “We liked the play call. We discussed it, and we went for it. We thought that executed well, and Mooney made a beautiful catch. He is one yard past the stick and sealed the game. Really good play call by Luke. Excellent execution by the O-line, the entire offense and Mooney on the catch and Bagent on the throw.”
Bagent ended the night 20 of 32 for 162 passing yards, no touchdowns, but also no interceptions. Moore led the team in receiving with his five receptions for 58 yards.
Mooney’s catch helped the Bears secure their third victory of the season, but D’Onta Foreman’s 21 carriers for 80 yards and touchdown combined with a stingy, bend-but-don’t break defense and Cario Santos’ three made field goals put Chicago in a position to win the game in the first place.
The Bears’ defense set up Foreman to score the only offensive touchdown of the game. The Panthers went three-and-out on their second offensive possession of the third quarter. Kyler Gordon tackled running back Miles Sanders for a six-yard loss on first down. Then Bryce Young completed a pass for a six-yard gain, but Yannick Ngakoue sacked Young on third-and-10.
Jaylon Johnson was asked if the thought that defensive drive was a turning point in the game.
“I feel like, honestly, defense, we dominated the whole game,” Jaylon Johnson said. “So I feel like it wasn’t too much of a turning point for us. It was just going out there and keep getting the ball back to the offense.”
After the Panthers’ punt, the Bears started their offensive drive on the Carolina 38-yard line. Bagent completed two passes on the 9-play, 38-yard drive, and Foreman punched the ball in on his 4-yard touchdown run.
The Bears defense held Young to 185 passing yards and sacked him three times. Justin Jones, Rasheem Green and Ngakoue were able to bring down Young.
Montez Sweat led the team in pressures with seven, according to Pro Football Focus. On the Bears’ second defensive snap in the game, Sweat easily got by the tight end Tommy Tremble and forced Young to throw an incomplete pass.
“That’s what we wanted to do, rattle Bryce Young a little bit,” Sweat said. “I think we did a great job of that. …”
The Bears held the Panthers to 3 of 15 on third down and only allowed one red zone trip. Chicago’s run defense continued has been good all season and continued on Thursday night by only allowing 43 yards on the ground.
“With the game, I really thought that we played some good complementary football,” Eberflus said. “I really thought that the defense did a really good job of creating some short fields for our offense most of the day, and that was good. We capitalized on some of them. It was that kind of game. Both defenses played well today. We knew it was going to be some field goals there as the game went on, and I thought that overall we handled it well and put ourselves in position to win the game.”
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