NFL Nation: Bears-Panthers

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

We're generally not a big fan of moral victories. And sure enough, when the Bears wake up Monday morning, they'll have a "1" in the all-important loss column following a 20-17 defeat to the Panthers.

But the Bears have shown us something in the first two weeks of the season. After dispatching Indianapolis on opening night, they held a 14-point lead midway through the third quarter in the home stadium of what appears to be one of the NFC's stronger teams.

The Bears wilted under a 100-degree heat index and finished the game without receiver/kick returner Devin Hester, who suffered a rib injury. You don't want to give up a second-half lead in that manner, but those circumstances are real and meaningful.

More important, in the big picture the Bears seem to have demonstrated they will be more competitive this season than their preseason indicated. Consider this one, Bears fans: If you knew your team would split the games of their season-opening road trip -- with a real chance to have gone 2-0 -- wouldn't you have been (pleasantly) surprised?

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The biggest gamble the normally-conservative John Fox will take this season has already paid off.

The decision to suspend the team's best player, Steve Smith, for the first two regular-season games exposed Fox to potential disaster. The coach already was starting the season on the hot seat. Now, he's officially off it.

The Panthers are off to a 2-0 start and they, somehow, did it without Smith. They went to San Diego last week and won and they did it again at home today with the Bears. They'll have Smith back next week when they travel to Minnesota and Fox's handling of the Smith situation has turned out to be perfect.

Suspending Smith was a difficult call because it left the Panthers open to the very real possibility of starting 0-2. But not suspending Smith for punching out teammate Ken Lucas in training camp would have been worse. If Fox had given Smith star treatment, he might have lost his team.

Now, Fox has the respect of his team, his best player coming back and a 2-0 record.

Hester carted off field

September, 14, 2008
9/14/08
3:17
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Hester

CHARLOTTE, N.C., -- Just as Carolina scored to cut Chicago's lead to 17-13, there was another very ominous sign for the Bears.

As Jonathan Stewart ran into one end zone, Chicago return man Devin Hester was carted off at the other end of the field. The Bears are saying Hester has an injury to his ribs and won't return.

That leaves Danieal Manning to return kickoffs and Nathan Vasher to handle punt returns.

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Delhomme

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Josh McCown got up and threw briefly, but it looks like Jake Delhomme's going to stay in the game.

Delhomme just took a massive hit as he slid to the ground on a scramble. Linebacker Lance Briggs and safety Brandon McGowan weren't called for a penalty as they hit Delhomme, but it's likely one or both of them will be fined for the play.

Delhomme was visibly upset as he came off the field. Keep an eye on Delhomme when he gets back on the field. He's an emotional guy and a play like that may fire him up.

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