The 2-7 Chicago Bears are playing the 1-7 Carolina Panthers at Soldier Field in a Week 10 matchup. Here’s what you need to know.
In a game focused on rookie quarterbacks, a big special teams play was the highlight of the first half between the Bears and Panthers.
Panthers returner Ihmir Smith-Marsette weaved his way around multiple Bears defenders for a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first quarter, and the Panthers rode the play to a 10-9 halftime lead.
Rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent completed 14 of 24 passes for 127 yards in the half as the Bears settled for three Cairo Santos field goals. D’Onta Foreman had 10 carries for 34 yards.
Panthers rookie quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, completed 7 of 14 passes for 63 yards in the half.
Bears cornerback Josh Blackwell missed a tackle just after Smith-Marsette caught Trenton Gill’s punt with about 6 minutes to play in the first quarter. Smith-Marsette shot through a couple of holes up the middle of the field before beating Gill one-on-one near the Bears 35-yard line. He then cruised the rest of the way for his first career return touchdown and a 7-0 Panthers lead.
Santos made a 54-yard field goal to cut the lead to 7-3 with 2:34 to play in the first quarter. Santos had made a previous attempt, but Cody Whitehair was called for a false penalty, pushing Santos back 5 yards.
Panthers kicker Eddy Pineiro, a former Bear, made a 33-yard field goal early in the second quarter to extend the Panthers’ lead to 10-3. Santos then cut it to 10-6 on a 36-yard field goal with 3:10 to play in the second quarter.
The Bears started that drive on their 47 after the defense came up with a big stop at the Panthers 9-yard line. The Bears pressured Young on three straight plays, with Justin Jones coming up with the sack on third down.
Before Santos’ field goal, the Bears went for it on fourth-and-4 at the Panthers 36, and Bagent hit Tyler Scott with a 15-yard pass to keep the drive alive. But the Bears eventually stalled after two short runs and a Bagent incompletion.
Bagent led the Bears on a last-minute drive to set up Santos’ final field goal of the half, from 39 yards to cut the Panthers lead to 10-9.
Bears cornerback Tyrique Stevenson is active for Thursday night’s game against the Panthers at Soldier Field.
The Bears announced Thursday afternoon that Stevenson was questionable to play as he recovers from an ankle injury that pushed him out in the second half of Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
But Stevenson is active, and if he plays, the Bears could have their full starting secondary together with the return of safety Jaquan Brisker from a concussion.
The Bears previously declared out linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (knee), right guard Nate Davis (ankle), fullback Khari Blasingame (concussion) and cornerback Terell Smith (mononucleosis).
Quarterback Justin Fields, who was listed as doubtful as he recovers from a right thumb injury, also is inactive. Rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent will make his fourth straight start in Fields’ place.
Wide receiver and kick returner Velus Jones Jr. is a notable healthy scratch after several mistakes have piled up over the first half of the season. The Bears activated wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown from injured reserve Thursday, paving the way for Jones’ absence.
Defensive end Dominique Robinson also is a healthy scratch.
Along with St. Brown, the Bears activated defensive back Josh Blackwell from IR. They did not activate running back Khalil Herbert, whom they designated to return from IR earlier this week. The Bears have 21 days from the time of designation to activate Herbert.
For the Panthers, outside linebacker Brian Burns (concussion), cornerback CJ Henderson (concussion), tight end Stephen Sullivan (shoulder), wide receivers Laviska Shenault Jr. (ankle) and DJ Chark Jr. (elbow) and offensive lineman Nash Jensen are inactive.
Perhaps if the Bears were not in the Thursday night national television slot for the second time in five weeks, Justin Fields would have been able to give it a go against the Panthers.
But coach Matt Eberflus announced undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent will make his fourth consecutive start, saying Fields is not medically cleared to return from a dislocated right thumb after another limited practice session Wednesday.
It’s a solid bet Fields will return for the Nov. 19 NFC North game at Ford Field against the Lions. At that point seven games will remain in a season that began with intense focus on whether the former first-round pick is indeed the franchise’s quarterback of the future.
It’s looking increasingly unlikely the Bears will ride with Fields into 2024 and beyond, and it’s unfortunate the thumb injury has cost him a month to provide evidence to the contrary. Read more here.
Jaquan Brisker was pushing to return from a concussion, his second in two seasons, Sunday in New Orleans but said the Bears and the doctors involved wanted to err on the side of caution.
Now, after missing two games, the strong safety is set to start tonight. It will provide a glimpse of the defense we haven’t seen much this season.
Brisker and free safety Eddie Jackson have been on the field together for what amounts to about 1 1/2 games this season — the opener against the Green Bay Packers and small portions of the Week 2 loss at Tampa Bay and the Week 6 loss to the Vikings. That’s it.
With the secondary rounding back into shape, the Bears have to hope they can change a problematic trend. Read more here.
Quarterback Caleb Williams — a past Heisman Trophy winner and projected 2024 NFL draft first-round pick — passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns for USC in a 52-42 loss to Washington.
He was strip-sacked late in the second quarter and three plays later, the Huskies went up 35-28 before the half. It was the fifth time in the last six games the Trojans defense gave up at least 40 points.
After the game, Williams, 21, was shown sitting on a railing in the stands and embracing his mother with his face covered by a poster. He was visibly overcome by emotion, likely from the frustration of seeing his conference championship hopes dissipate despite his own best efforts. As he cried in his mother’s arms, the national broadcast cameras stayed there for a minute as ABC announcers Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit, in tones suitable for the situation, provided context to what Williams could be feeling. Read more here.