- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE -- Here are five things we learned following the Bears' 23-6 victory over the Panthers.
1. This meant a ton to Julius Peppers: The normally laid-back Peppers tried to downplay his return to Carolina leading up to the game, but the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end showed his true feelings by celebrating after a first-quarter interception. Peppers put his finger up to his lips to silence the crowd, a gesture he repeated later in the game following a pressure on Carolina quarterback Jimmy Clausen. A grinning Peppers said the move "spoke for itself" when questioned about it in a postgame press conference. The only time a dead Charlotte crowd made any noise was to boo after Peppers' name was announced after a tackle. Peppers got the last laugh, in more ways than one.
2. Israel Idonije responded: The Bears desperately needed another defensive end to step up in the wake of Mark Anderson being released, and Idonije delivered. Not only did Idonije tie for the team lead with seven tackles according to NFL statistics handed out in the press box, but the defensive end also registered a career-high three sacks. It was curious for the Bears to sit Charles Grant -- why sign a guy and not play him? -- but Idonije more than made up for it. If the Bears can consistently get pressure from the other end spot, Peppers becomes that much more dangerous.
3. The Bears can still win with defense and special teams: Lovie Smith called it "old school Bears ball." With the starting quarterback on the bench, the Bears turned back the clock to 2005, leaning on their defense and special teams to finish off the Panthers. After an early wake-up call, the Bears' defense shut down Carolina's anemic attack and limited the Panthers to only 147 net yards. Big returns by Danieal Manning and Devin Hester also gave the Bears great field position. This style of play probably won't work anymore against good teams, but for one day, they jumped into the time machine.
4. Caleb Hanie should be the No. 2: Todd Collins has the experience, but Hanie has the talent. Mike Martz predictably and incorrectly opted to start the experienced Collins over Hanie -- after all, Martz was the guy who pushed so hard for a veteran backup -- but the Bears were able to overcome the poor decision basically because Carolina is awful. At this point, it would be a little surprising if Jay Cutler sat out next week against the Seahawks, but if he does, there is no question Hanie gives the Bears the best chance to win. Hanie has stepped in twice this year and made plays. Collins turned the ball over four times. What else is there to debate?
5. Good things happen when Forte and Taylor touch the ball: It's unclear why Matt Forte and Chester Taylor saw their roles in the offense diminish after Week 1, but after combining for 218 yards on the ground, there is absolutely no reason why the duo's workload should ease up once Cutler returns. Forte and Taylor are two of the best players on the offensive side of the ball, and they both need touches. Every week. It was encouraging to see a little improvement from the offensive line with the insertion of J'Marcus Webb and Edwin Williams in the starting lineup. Hopefully, that unit can start to build some continuity after Chris Williams officially comes back, and the run game can become a consistent theme of the offense, not just a one-time freak occurrence because Cutler was out.