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(Sunday, October 2nd)
Final Score: Chicago 34, Carolina 29
Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Matt Forte rushed for a career-high 205 yards with one touchdown and Devin Hester ran his way into the record book with a 69-yard punt return for another score, as Chicago gutted out a 34-29 victory over Carolina at Soldier Field.
"It's just about getting to the second level. When the offensive line takes care of the defense, I can start getting tackles downfield," Forte said of his Sunday success. We established the run early, and were able to keep it up for the whole game."
Hester's runback in the second quarter gave him 11 career punt return TDs, surpassing Eric Metcalf's old mark. The fleet return specialist also holds the NFL record for combined return touchdowns with 15.
D.J. Moore added a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown for Chicago.
It took the pressure off Jay Cutler, who only needed to complete 9-of-17 throws for 102 yards for the Bears (2-2), who had dropped two straight since a season-opening rout of Atlanta.
Cam Newton did it all once again, passing for 374 yards with a score and rushing for a pair of touchdowns, but it wasn't enough for the Panthers (1-3), who couldn't maintain momentum from a victory against Jacksonville last Sunday.
Steve Smith caught eight balls for 181 yards and became the franchise leader in total receiving yardage. Olindo Mare hit three field goals in defeat.
A pass interference call on Jeremy Shockey negated his own potential go-ahead touchdown catch with 6 1/2 minutes to play in the third, and Mare had his 34- yard attempt blocked to keep the Panthers down by 24-20.
Chicago failed to significantly move the ball on the following series, and on Carolina's ensuing drive, Mare hit a 38-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter for a one-point game.
Cutler was picked off by Charles Godfrey two plays later, but the Panthers stalled and Mare missed from 52 yards away.
After Forte converted a 4th-and-1 just past midfield on the following drive, the Bears elected not to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the six, and Robbie Gould hit from 24 yards out for a 27-23 game with 6:41 to play.
Newton later threw incomplete on 4th-and-10 from his own 43 after the two- minute warning. Forte then gained 40 yards to the three on first down, and Marion Barber bulled his way into the end zone two plays later to give the Bears a 34-24 edge with 1:23 remaining.
Greg Olsen's three-yard score with four ticks left pulled the Panthers within 34-29, but the conversion failed and time ran out after Hester's brief kickoff return.
"The offense showed up and made plays," offered Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. "Cam played well once again. It's a learning process and when the rest of us catch up with him, I think we can be a better football team."
Mare's 29-yard field goal capped Carolina's opening drive, and Gould countered on Chicago's first series with a 20-yard make.
It was 10-3 for the Bears on the Panthers' following series, when a Newton pass was tipped by Legedu Naanee and grabbed by Moore, who rolled 20 yards to the end zone.
Late in the first, Newton found Smith alone downfield for a 53-yard strike to the one and two plays later, Newton called his own number from the one for a tie game.
Hester returned the kick 73 yards to the Panthers' 36, and Forte finished off that drive with a 17-yard TD run. Carolina went three-and-out, then Hester raced 69 yards for a score off a Jason Baker boot to make it 24-10.
Newton brought his squad within a touchdown on the ensuing possession thanks to a two-yard run, and Mare connected from 39 yards out for a 24-20 game at the break.
Chicago has won four of the six all-time regular-season meetings...Forte's previous single-game best came last October 10 at Carolina, with a 166-yard performance...Smith (9,414 yards) passed Muhsin Muhammad (9,255 from 1996-04, 2008-09) for the Panthers' all-time receiving yardage mark...Hester totaled 142 return yards...Carolina's DeAngelo Williams totaled 82 rushing yards on 10 attempts...Carolina racked up 543 yards of total offense to 317 for Chicago.
10/02 18:48:23 ET