Bears-Panthers Preview

The Chicago Bears’ inability to protect quarterback Jay Cutler

led to their first loss. It’s also resulted in them having to play

without him for the first time since he was acquired last year.

Chicago will try to bounce back without Cutler on Sunday when

defensive end Julius Peppers returns to Carolina to face his

winless former teammates.

The Bears (3-1) gave up a franchise-worst 10 sacks in a 17-3

loss to the New York Giants last week – an NFL-record nine coming

in the first half. On that ninth sack, Cutler’s head bounced off

the turf as he was taken down.

Todd Collins took over for Cutler to start the third quarter and

was also knocked from the game with a stinger, replaced by Caleb

Hanie. The Bears totaled 110 yards of offense, their worst output

in nearly four years.

Cutler participated in passing drills Wednesday, but the team

announced Thursday he would sit out this game – ending his

consecutive starts streak at 57 games. Team spokesman Scott Hagel

says the doctors ”all agreed that participation in practice” went

well but felt that sitting out ”was the right way to go.”

First-year offensive coordinator Mike Martz took the blame for

Cutler getting knocked around.

“I just tried to do way too much in a short week with these

guys,” he said. “Whatever went wrong in that game was my

responsibility.”

Collins is expected to start versus the Panthers, with Hanie now

the No. 2 quarterback.

While they faced one of the league’s best pass rushing teams

last Sunday, the Bears draw one of the worst this week. The

Panthers (0-4) have four sacks, tying them with Chicago and four

other teams for next to last in the NFL.

That’s due in large part to the Bears’ signing of Peppers. The

defensive end recorded 81 sacks in his first eight seasons with

Carolina, then joined Chicago on a six-year, $91.5 million

deal.

Peppers apparently has bad feelings toward his former team. On

Wednesday, he called his departure from the Panthers “a little

sour,” claiming the club tried to paint him in a bad light after

deciding not to re-sign him by making it look like he wanted out of

Carolina.

While Peppers’ departure has hurt the Panthers’ pass rush, he

has only two sacks with Chicago. The Bears attempted to get him

some help Tuesday, cutting Mark Anderson and picking up veteran end

Charles Grant, who has 47 career sacks.

“We just felt like we needed a little bit more pass rush-wise,”

Smith told the team’s website. “Charles Grant’s been a player who’s

been productive in the league.”

The Panthers have given up 12 sacks – six fewer than the Bears’

league-high total – and are expected to start rookie quarterback

Jimmy Clausen for the third time Sunday.

Despite finishing with fewer passing yards than the previous

week, Clausen showed improvement Sunday after a mistake-filled

debut.

Carolina scored two touchdowns in a game for the first time this

season and committed one turnover in the 16-14 loss at New Orleans.

One of those scores was Clausen’s first TD throw, a 55-yarder to

running back Jonathan Stewart.

Clausen was 11 of 21 for 146 yards, a week after going 16 of 33

for 188 yards and committing three of the team’s four turnovers in

a 20-7 loss to Cincinnati.

“I thought he made some decent throws,” coach John Fox said.

“I’m sure there are some we’d like to have back and he’d like to

have back. I thought his performance was better this week than it

was a week ago.”

Clausen couldn’t help the Panthers avoid their worst start since

losing their first seven games of 1998. Carolina has scored five

touchdowns and committed 13 turnovers.

Clausen’s job may be even tougher this week with top receiver

Steve Smith likely to sit out at least one game with a sprained

left ankle. Smith, who suffered the injury in the third quarter

last Sunday, was wearing a protective boot Monday.

“It’s day to day, just see how it goes,” Smith told the team’s

website. “I’m just trying to walk. Maybe we could figure out some

way … to put some cleats on the bottom (of the boot).”

The Panthers released receiver Dwayne Jarrett on Tuesday

following his second DWI arrest in less than three years. Jarrett

was expected to play a role Sunday with Smith banged up, but

Carolina may be forced to start rookies David Gettis and Brandon

LaFell at receiver to go with its first-year quarterback.

“It’s time for us to step up,” Gettis said. “We have to.”

The Panthers added receiver David Clowney off waivers from the

New York Jets.

The Bears and Panthers have split four regular-season meetings

with each team winning twice at home. Stewart’s two touchdown runs,

the second a 1-yard plunge with 3:52 remaining, helped Carolina

rally for a 20-17 victory in the last matchup Sept. 14, 2008.