Chicago hits Carolina, angry ex-Bears RB Davis
The Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers are among the NFL’s early surprises.
The teams are riding waves of success as they meet Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
“We believe in each other,” Panthers running back Mike Davis said. “The first two weeks were us, basically, I think just trying to figure out who we were. Now, we just really just want to come in and be the toughest team you can play.”
The Panthers (3-2) try to extend their winning streak to four games. They produced a four-game winning stretch last fall before the season went sour.
The Bears (4-1) have found various ways to get the job done so far.
“We don’t have any complacency,” Bears receiver Allen Robinson II said. “None of our quarterbacks are complacent. Our receivers aren’t complacent. Nobody is walking around here satisfied.”
The Bears compiled four victories by a combined margin of 13 points, including the 20-19 decision Oct. 8 against visiting Tampa Bay.
The Bears have had a few extra days of preparation before the trip to Charlotte to count their good fortune.
But off-field concerns emerged for Chicago last weekend. Offensive lineman Badara Traore, a member of the Bears’ practice squad, became the team’s first player to test positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the season.
The Bears adjusted their practice routine this week, with a walkthrough and off-field work Monday. Players had a day off Tuesday.
“We wanted to put everything back on track (for Wednesday),” coach Matt Nagy said.
The Bears are addressing shortcomings on offense. They struggled in the 19-11 home loss Oct. 4 to the Indianapolis Colts. Chicago ranks near the NFL’s bottom in scoring, total offense, rushing offense and third-down efficiency.
“None of it is effort. None of it is not caring,” Nagy said. “But darn it, when you play in this offense, you better be freaking detailed. And we’re not a detailed football team on offense right now. And we need to get that back.”
The Bears have used Nick Foles as the starting quarterback the past two games. That puts Mitchell Trubisky likely on the sideline for a return to the state where he played in college as a standout for North Carolina.
The rushing attack tends to have put the Bears on heightened alert. They’re averaging 95.4 yards per game on the ground.
“I have a lot of faith in our run game, I really do,” Nagy said. “(There are) different ways on how we’re going to get back to it. There’s no panic at all. We know we can be so much better on offense. It’s just putting that thing together. You can’t over-think it. … All that said, the positive in all of this is we’re 4-1.”
The Panthers have had moments of success on offense despite a stagnant second half with only a field goal in last week’s 23-16 victory at Atlanta. Carolina is also staying alert as it relates to the coronavirus due to news of a positive test from a member of the Falcons.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has completed 73 percent of his passes for the second-best mark in the NFL.
“We just look at who is the next opponent,” Bridgewater said. “We try not to look too far back because this is a new team, so all we can control is just how hard we work each day and we focus on that.”
The Panthers haven’t allowed a sack in the past two games. They hadn’t gone consecutive games without yielding a sack since the third and fourth games of the 2011 season.
“I think it’s always all of them,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said of the reason for the protection. “It’s also the guys getting open. When guys get open quickly you have a chance to get rid of the ball out of your hand.”
Panthers All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey is eligible to return after missing three games with a high ankle sprain, but he won’t be on the field this weekend.
Stand-in Davis appeared in seven games, including one as a starter, last year for the Bears. Chicago receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is a former Panther.
Davis said he always runs with a chip on his shoulder. That will be the case again this week against his former club. Davis has been productive as a receiver as well, with 30 receptions tying him with Saints running back Alvin Kamara for tops among running backs. He’s been difficult to bring down, and might be hard to move out of a big role when McCaffrey is cleared.
“Most of the time I’m just really pissed off when I’m out there,” Davis said.
Rhule said Wednesday that defensive tackle Kawann Short will be out due to season-ending shoulder surgery.
Safety Jeremy Chinn, who’s Carolina’s top tackler, leads all NFL rookies with 43 tackles. Bears backup safety Deon Bush didn’t practice Wednesday because of a hamstring ailment.
This is the first meeting between the teams since the Bears won in 2017 in Chicago. The Panthers are 3-1 at home in the series, including a 2014 victory the last time Chicago visited.
–Field Level Media