1. Matt Forte, RB: Opening the season against Detroit with a career-high 151 receiving yards, Forte accomplished the same feat on the ground (166 yards and two touchdowns) against the Panthers to make up for inadequate quarterbacking performances. The Bears entered the week of preparation for the Panthers game knowing their best shot at winning would be to get the rushing attack going. Forte rose to the challenge when called upon, averaging 7.5 yards per carry, while showcasing his home-run pedigree with a 68-yard burst. The key moving forward for Forte is to continue producing on the ground, which in turn, will open up the passing attack where he’s also a considerable threat.
2. Danieal Manning, S, KR: Devin Hester might be just as deserving of this spot, but Manning continues to contribute significantly in multiple phases. Manning took his first two kickoff returns against the Panthers for 62 and 37 yards, respectively, with both leading to Forte touchdowns. On the defensive side, Manning followed up his 11-tackle performance against the Giants with four tackles and broke up what appeared to be a sure touchdown pass in the end zone. Having endured countless criticism throughout his career in Chicago, the safety says he’s taken a more loose approach in games, which appears to be paying off significantly.
3. Israel Idonije, DE: A classic example of taking advantage of an opportunity, Idonije responded to taking sole possession of the starting left defensive end job by producing the highest sack total (3) of his career while forcing a fumble. The Bears wanted someone to finally step up and exploit the one-on-one matchups created by blocking schemes devoted to neutralizing Julius Peppers, and Idonije did that. More importantly, Idonije didn’t expose some scrub at offensive tackle. The veteran held his own against Jordan Gross, considered one of the NFL's top tackles. Idonije also played a major role in the Bears limiting the Panthers to 85 rushing yards.
1. Todd Collins, QB: Veteran backup quarterback Collins smartly expects the club to demote him in favor of Caleb Hanie on Wednesday, when it gets to work in preparation for Sunday’s game against Seattle. Collins tossed four interceptions, and completed just 37.5 percent of his passes to finish with an embarrassing 6.2 passer rating. Give Collins credit for stepping up and taking full responsibility for his struggles, calling the performance his worst at any sport and any level. Despite the bad game, Collins can still be a productive backup if the Bears get into a pinch. The question, though, is whether the Bears keep him around now that Jay Cutler is back healthy.
2. Tommie Harris, DT: It’s important to note that Harris didn’t play badly against the Panthers. He just didn’t make much of an impact. A quick scan of the official game book from Sunday’s contest shows the defensive tackle wasn’t even credited with a tackle against the Panthers. Harris’ role is clearly diminishing. The club’s top defensive tackle over the years, Harris has started in just two of the club’s five games and was inactive for another. He’s registered just three tackles and a fumble recovery so far, which is disappointing, considering the club’s lofty expectations for Harris coming into the season, and the fact he’s in the healthiest he has been in recent years.
3. Johnny Knox, WR: It’s pretty clear that Collins’ inept performance against the Panthers dragged Knox down to this spot. Knox leads the team with six receptions of 20 yards or more (for an average of 34.3 yards on those catches), and appeared to be on pace to become the first 1,000-yard Bears receiver since Marty Booker (2002). But Knox is coming off consecutive one-catch performances, and hasn’t been able to contribute much in the kickoff return game (one return over the past two weeks for 13 yards). Knox won’t be in this spot long, though. With Cutler expected to return for Sunday’s game, look for Knox’s production to rise.