Panthers at Bears Review
January 15th, 2006 - Page updated at 6:30pm
Analyst For WagerOnFootball.com
GAME BY GAME SUMMARIES - DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
panthers at bears REVIEW
Score: Carolina 29, Chicago 21
- Steve Smith racked up a career-best
218 receiving yards on 12 catches and hauled in two
touchdown passes from Jake Delhomme, as Carolina advanced
to the NFC Championship game with a 29-21 victory
over Chicago in a divisional playoff game at Soldier
Delhomme threw for 319 yards and three
scores with one interception for the fifth-seeded
Panthers, who built an early 13-0 lead and held on
to reach the NFC title game for the second time in
three years. He completed 24-of-33 passes.
The Panthers rolled up 434 total yards
against the NFL's second-ranked defense and scored
the most points by an opponent at Soldier Field this
Carolina will visit top-seeded Seattle
Seahawks next Sunday to decide the conference's representative
in Super Bowl XL.
However, the Panthers will have to
face the Seahawks without their top running back,
as DeShaun Foster broke his right ankle early in the
third quarter after putting up 54 yards on 16 carries.
Rex Grossman went 17-of-41 for 192
yards with a touchdown and interception in his first
career playoff start. Thomas Jones compiled 80 yards
on 20 carries for second-seeded Chicago, which hasn't
won a postseason game since the 1994 campaign.
The Bears, who had set an NFL record
by surrendering only 61 total points in their eight
home regular-season games, allowed seven before a
minute had ticked off the clock.
On the second play from scrimmage,
Smith burned Charles Tillman and Delhomme hit him
in stride down the right sideline for a 58-yard touchdown
just 55 seconds into the contest.
Smith set up the Panthers' next points
when he took an up-for-grabs pass from Delhomme away
from Nathan Vasher for a 46-yard gain to the Chicago
two. However, the Bears stuffed Foster twice and Delhomme
overthrew Michael Gaines to force John Kasay to kick
a 20-yard field goal on the first play of the second
Kasay drilled a 38-yarder with 6:26
left in the period to extend the lead to 13-0. Foster
ran three times for 26 yards on the eight-play drive,
including a 17-yard burst that put Carolina in scoring
Grossman had thrown for only two net
yards over Chicago's first five possessions, but finally
caught fire late in the first half.
The young signal-caller hit Bernard
Berrian for 17 yards before finding ex- Panther Muhsin
Muhammad down the middle for a 24-yard gain that put
the ball inside the Carolina 20. A 13-yard catch-and-run
by Berrian then gave the Bears a 1st-and-goal, and
Adrian Peterson crossed the goal line from a yard
out on fourth down to bring Chicago within 13-7 with
1:57 remaining before intermission.
However, Delhomme marched the Panthers
down field in the closing moments. The veteran completed
5-of-6 throws for 58 yards, including a 20-yard strike
to Smith with just under a minute to go, to allow
Kasay to boot his third field goal of the half. The
37-yard kick as time expired sent Carolina into the
locker room with a 16-7 advantage.
The nine-point bulge at the break could
have been more. Panthers' star defensive end Julius
Peppers had a 37-yard fumble return for a touchdown
overturned by replay in the first-quarter, while Brian
Urlacher stopped another scoring opportunity when
he picked off Delhomme deep in Chicago territory later
Those missed opportunities nearly cost
Carolina, as the Bears opened the second half with
an eight-play, 68-yard touchdown drive to cut the
deficit to two.
Jones ripped off a 24-yard run into
Panther territory and Berrian later made a 12-yard
grab on 3rd-and-6 to move Chicago to the 25-yard line.
A 17-yard connection from Grossman to Berrian preceded
Desmond Clark's one-yard catch in the end zone that
made it a 16-14 game.
After the teams traded punts, the Panthers
gained some breathing room when Delhomme found Smith
wide open down the left sideline for a 39-yard touchdown
with 2:07 remaining in the third quarter. However,
Chicago answered on the ensuing possession.
Grossman delivered a 24-yard pass to
Justin Gage and later an 18-yarder to Muhammad which
gave the Bears a 1st-and-goal. Jones nearly killed
the drive when he fumbled out of the end zone two
plays later, but Carolina's Marlon McCree was flagged
for a face mask to prevent the turnover.
Fullback Jason McKie then scored from
three yards out to pull the hosts within 23-21 with
over 12 minutes still to play.
However, Chicago's normally reliable
defense failed to stop the Panthers on their next
Carolina marched 62 yards in seven
plays, highlighted by a 22-yard end around by Smith
that put the ball deep in the Bears' end. A pair of
strong runs by Nick Goings moved the Panthers inside
the five-yard line before Delhomme capped the drive
with a one-yard toss to Kris Mangum with 8:04 remaining.
Kasay slipped on the extra point try
and the ball landed off the upright, keeping the score
at 29-21 and making it a one-possession game.
The Bears got inside the Carolina 40
with around 2 1/2 minutes to go, but Grossman was
intercepted by Ken Lucas to thwart the threat.
Still, Chicago had one last chance
after its defense forced a three-and-out and got the
ball back with 1:36 remaining. However, Grossman hurried
a 4th- and-1 throw for Muhammad and the pass sailed
past the receiver.
Chicago Pro Bowl safety Mike
Brown, who missed the final four regular-season games
with a calf injury, aggravated the ailment late in
the first half and didn't return...Chicago has lost
its last three playoff games, the last two of which
have come at home. The Bears' last postseason win
came on January 1, 1995, a 35-18 decision at Minnesota
in the wild-card round...Smith's previous career best
of 201 yards was set October 30 against the Vikings.
He had 14 receptions for 169 yards in Carolina's 13-3
regular-season loss to the Bears in November...Delhomme
has thrown 10 touchdowns and just two picks in six
career playoff games...Chicago has lost 12 straight
games in which it has trailed by more than six points.
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