CHARLOTTE — Entering Week 6, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater led the NFL with a 73.4 completion percentage.
But as a salty Bears' defense constantly hounded him, Bridgewater was uncharacteristically inaccurate in Sunday's loss, a fact best exemplified by his last two throws.
After the Panthers' defense forced a punt midway through the fourth quarter of a 23-16 game, Carolina faced a fourth-and-2 from the Chicago 38. The two-minute warning allowed the Panthers to discuss the play on the sideline, and they found one that worked.
Bridgewater lined up in an empty set from the shotgun with four receivers bunched to his left and just running back Mike Davis on his right. Though Carolina needed only two yards, wide receiver DJ Moore ran a corner route about 15 yards down the field and was wide open.
But Bridgewater's throw sailed a bit too far. Moore nearly made a one-handed grab that would've played on highlight reels for the rest of the year. But as he landed, the ball fell incomplete.
"We just missed the throw, it's all us," Bridgwater said. "We've got to just execute better."
Moore made no excuses for the failed fourth down.
"We just didn't get the connection down," Moore said. "I just have to catch the ball at the end of the day."
Added head coach Matt Rhule:
"That's a play that we have to make all around."
That could have been Carolina's last offensive chance, but the defense got another stop. The Bears helped the Panthers, too, by throwing an incomplete pass on third-and-2 to save Carolina's last timeout.
So the Panthers had 92 seconds and a timeout to drive 80 yards in a seven-point game.
"I know that everybody on the team really believed that was going to be the drive in which we were going to score, tie up the game, and ultimately end up trying to win toward the end, whether it was overtime or however it shaped up," left tackle Russell Okung said. "The belief was there."
But the execution wasn't. On the drive's first play, Bridgewater was intercepted by safety DeAndre Houston-Carson on a pass over the middle intended for Moore.
"That last interception, obviously that's unfortunate," Rhule said. "It can't happen."
Bridgewater finished 16-of-29 passing for 216 yards with a pair of interceptions. His 55.2 completion percentage and 50.4 passer rating were season lows against a defense that came in ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in those respective categories. Under duress for most of the day, Bridgewater rushed eight times for 48 yards and the Bears totaled four sacks and six quarterback hits.
But it was his final two throws that encapsulated Bridgewater's tough day.
"It was just two situations where great football teams capitalize in those situations, and they take advantage of it," he said. "We didn't do that today."