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Pass rush neutralized after strong start


CHICAGO – At halftime, the Panthers had more sacks than the Bears had completions. 

Jay Cutler – who was 4-for-9 in the first half – was sacked six times.

The pocket rapidly collapsed around the Bears quarterback each time he stepped back to throw.

"No doubt about it, we played well," said defensive tackle Dwan Edwards. "We put a lot of pressure on him and didn't give him opportunities to escape."

Defensive end Greg Hardy notched the Panthers' first sack on the Bears' first offensive play, and he registered his second late in the first quarter, dropping Cutler for an 11-yard loss.

Fellow-defensive end Charles Johnson got into the act on the next play. Johnson strip-sacked Cutler, and rookie Frank Alexander pounced on the ball for the recovery.

Chicago's next drive came to an end when Edwards – who missed the majority of the second half due to an ankle injury – recorded Carolina's fourth sack on third-and-seven.

And with the Bears looking for a late score with 38 seconds left in the half and the ball on the Carolina 44-yard line, it was the defensive line that rose up to produce back-to-back sacks.

First, Hardy sacked Cutler for the third time. Next, Johnson strip-sacked Cutler for the second time before recovering the loose ball himself.

On the strength of its pass-rush, Carolina entered halftime with a 13-7 lead.

"Our pass rush was good," head coach Ron Rivera said. "(The D-line) did a nice job for us, and they got after (Cutler) early."

But after halftime, the Bears adjusted, and Cutler wasn't sacked again.

He primarily took three-step drops and Chicago employed more quick throws with short route combinations to counter the Panthers' pass-rush.

"They started throwing fast in the second half," Hardy said. "We just couldn't get there fast enough."

Cutler got the ball out of his hands before the Panthers' defensive linemen could get close to him.

"We started getting some timing patterns and just trying to get rid of the ball," Cutler explained. "I wanted to get rid of it before they even got back to me."

He completed 15 of 19 passes in the second half, and the Bears' passing game had no trouble moving downfield with the game on the line.

Carolina's ferocious pass rush, which was seemingly unstoppable for two quarters, was neutralized.

Cutler was 6-for-7 on the final drive before setting up Robbie Gould for the game-winning field goal.

"They changed the game, and we didn't change with them, plain and simple," Hardy said. "You just have to adjust and we didn't."

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