Ten random thoughts on today's 20-17 victory by the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium:
1. Have you ever seen a home team have more trouble with false starts? The Panthers picked up five in the first half and it looked like several of them were the product of Jake Delhomme trying to sort out what the Bears were doing defensively at the line of scrimmage. Delhomme was barking out some calls and the play clock was running low and his guys couldn't maintain their stances. Carolina was making about every mistake you could think of and the Bears simply didn't capitalize enough.
2. The most bothersome thing about Greg Olsen's two lost fumbles is neither looked to be the product of a jarring hit. Thomas Davis got the first one out and Chris Harris accurately described the second one. He compared it to playing lazy defense in basketball and going for the pickpocket when you're behind your man. When there are huge hits, fumbles happen for even the most sure-handed carriers.
Olsen's first fumble took probably at least three points off the scoreboard. He wasn't going anywhere on the second-and-seven play from the Carolina-25-yard line, so the Bears would have been facing third and a decent distance, but that's in Robbie Gould's wheelhouse right there. It could have been 10-0 midway through the first quarter. As far as the second fumble, that happened deep in the Bears end, that gave a team desperately seeking momentum just that.
He wasn't the only one who had a bad game. Just off the top, there was at least one drop for Rashied Davis and one penalty. Davis, who started, caught three passes for 11 yards. Brandon McGowan had two penalties, one of the uncalled for 15-yard variety following the blocked punt touchdown, before he was injured.
3. Jonathan Stewart looked like a beast running for the Panthers in the second half. He had 76 of his 77 yards after halftime. It can't be long before he's starting ahead of DeAngelo Williams. But Matt Forte made some nice runs and a few good looking cuts when there were holes to get through. The Bears ran the ball fairly effectively. The one bothersome call was the handoff to Jason McKie on fourth-and-one at the 50-yard line with two minutes to play. The Bears showed McKie earlier in first-and-goal at the one. They showed him in the same situation the week before at Indianapolis. When he ran on the field after the failed third-and-one pass to Marty Booker, who watching the game didn't know the ball was going to him? The Panthers were not fooled and he never had a chance.
4. Strong safety Kevin Payne looked to have a better game than he did at Indianapolis. He stepped up in the run game and made a big hit on Williams carrying the ball in the first quarter. It looked like Payne tied up tight end Jeff King when the ball bounced up in the air long enough for Charles Tillman to intercept it, the 18th pick of his career.
5. Ron Turner needs to take a look through the playbook and see where he can dial up some more big-play chances downfield. Brandon Lloyd looks to have the best rapport with Orton right now and he made a nice catch on a back-shoulder pass that went for 32 yards in the first quarter to get the offense out from deep in its own end. There were a few shots downfield--Orton just missed Booker in the fourth quarter--but they are going to have to get more proficient in this area. You need to be able to get chunks from time to time because those 80-yard drives are difficult to put together, four, five and six yards at a time.
6. If Devin Hester misses time with what has been called a rib injury, could we see rookie third-round pick Earl Bennett returning punts soon? Bennett wasn't the mos sure-handed returner in camp and preseason (he also wasn't the most sure-handed receiver) but will the Bears hesitate to have cornerback Nathan Vasher returning punts and being further exposed to injury? We all know what happened to the secondary last season when Vasher was not out there.
Catching the ball is the first order of business for a return man, and Vasher is good at that. He looked nifty on an 18-yard return too. Bennett has been inactive for the first two games.
7. Quietly, defensive end Alex Brown had a solid game. He's got two sacks now and he also added two tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry and a pass defense.
8. Muhsin Muhammad might be on to something. He thinks linebacker Lance Briggs will get a little unwanted mail from the league office later this week for his stop of quarterback Jake Delhomme. The quarterback was sliding and it didn't necessarily look late but it did appear that Briggs tagged Delhomme in the head with his shoulder. There's no way this will be at the top of the list for the league to sort out when it comes to officiating. That Denver-San Diego finish was a fiasco.
9. Rhys Lloyd, the Panthers kickoff specialist, was touted as the guy with the big leg in this meeting. But Robbie Gould topped him 2-1 in touchbacks. Gould tweaked his approach on kickoffs this season with a goal of adding distance and hang time and so far, so good.
10. Care to think how this would have turned out if Steve Smith was in uniform for the Panthers?