Week 9 Nuts & Bolts: Bears vs. Panthers
CHICAGO BEARS vs. CAROLINA PANTHERSWhen: Noon Sunday | TV: FOX, locally: Ch. 32 WFLD-TV
RADIO: 780 AM, WBBM & 105.9 FM; WLEY (107.9 FM)
CHICAGO BEARS (5-1)
Coach: Lovie Smith | Record including playoffs: 76-58
Career record (including playoffs) vs. Ron Rivera: | 1-0 Career record vs. Panthers:3-2
Last week: Defeated Detroit Lions 13-7
Key stat: The Bears are 4-0 this season when they score first, 3-0 when they lead after the first quarter, and 5-0 when they finish with a positive turnover ratio. Since Week 7 of 2011, Jay Cutler owns the highest winning percentage (.909) of any starting quarterback in the NFL.
Offense rank: 22nd (337.8 ypg) | Defense rank: sixth (299.3 ypg).
Offensive leader: Since 2007, Brandon Marshall has caught 515 passes, which ranks as No. 3 in the NFL over the period. Marshall is currently on pace to finish the season with a career-high 1,538 yards, which would rank as the most receiving yards in franchise history. Marshall has caught 63.1 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2012, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Defensive leader: Cornerback Charles Tillman earned recognition as NFC player of the week for his performance against the Detroit Lions, but faces another stiff challenge Sunday against Carolina’s Steve Smith. Tillman’s eight touchdowns ranks as the most defensive TDs in franchise history, and he’s five INTs away from tying Richie Petitbon for No. 2 on the club’s all-time list.
Marshall looks for fourth consecutive game in which he’s caught a TD pass.
Cutler has won seven consecutive home starts
Matt Forte looks to rush for 150 yards or more against the Panthers for the third time in a row.
Cornerback Tim Jennings has picked off a pass in five of his last seven games.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (1-5)
Coach: Ron Rivera | Record: 7-15
Career head-to-head record vs. Smith: 0-1 | Career record vs. Bears: 0-1
Last week: Lost to Dallas Cowboys 19-14.
Key stat: Carolina led the league in 2011 with 90 plays of 20 yards or more, and currently ranks fourth in that statistic, having hit gains of 20-plus yards on 31 occasions. Quarterback Cam Newton is the only player in NFL history to throw for more than 5,000 yards (5,438), 25 TDs or more (26), in addition to adding 15 or more rushing TDs (17) through his first two seasons.
Offense rank: 24th (335.5 ypg) | Defense rank: 21st (366.2 ypg).
Offensive leader: Smith has hauled in 34 passes for 568 yards and two touchdowns in his last three meetings against the Bears. A five-time Pro Bowler, Smith holds Carolina’s franchise record for total touchdowns (67), receiving yards (10,749) and yards per catch (14.7) in addition to putting together 40 games with 100 yards or more receiving.
Defensive leader: Defensive end Charles Johnson set a single-game franchise record for sacks (3.5) in Week 4 against the Atlanta Falcons and has led the Panthers in sacks for each of the last three seasons. Johnson has posted 20 1/2 sacks over his last 28 appearances, and narrowly missed posting a double-digit sack season (9) in 2011 for the second-consecutive time.
Smith needs one reception to extend his streak of 81 consecutive games with at least one catch dating back to 2006.
Offensive tackle Jordan Gross will break Carolina’s record for consecutive starts (142) on Sunday.
Defensive end Greg Hardy has started three weeks in a row, notching sacks in two of those three outings.