Chicago, IL – Robbie Gould's 41-yard field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired to lift the Chicago Bears to a 23-22 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The Panthers led 19-14 with just under seven minutes to play, but Cam Newton's pass was intercepted by Tim Jennings and the cornerback took it 25 yards for a touchdown to give Chicago a 20-19 advantage.
But Newton, who criticized the offense in a postgame tirade last week, led the Panthers (1-6) into field goal range. Justin Medlock blasted a 43-yard field goal off the right upright but the ball ricocheted over the crossbar to give Carolina a 22-20 lead.
"Today, the big play by Tim definitely did (energize the team). It got everyone going," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. "Once you get a little bit of life -- I can't say we didn't have life before -- but things just weren't going our way. As for energizing, yeah, you need someone to come up and make a play and he did."
Jay Cutler, who had an absolutely dreadful first half, led the Bears (6-1) down the field in nine plays to set up the Gould field goal, completing 6-of-7 passes on the drive for 52 yards.
Cutler finished the game 19-for-28 passing for 186 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Matt Forte carried the ball 15 times for 70 yards and a score and Brandon Marshall had nine catches for 98 yards in the Bears' fifth straight win.
"When you're a great quarterback, most of the time in the league it's going to come down -- no matter what happens early on -- what you do in the fourth quarter, what you do with two minutes left to go in the game," Smith said "And to Jay, getting us in position. Robbie Gould won't miss a lot of field goals and that's why it was important for us to get him back into position. I've been on the sideline a lot of times when he's kicked the winning field goal."
Newton was 20-for-39 through the air for 314 yards, but threw a pair of interceptions. Steve Smith hauled in seven balls for 118 yards, but dropped a sure touchdown with 2:43 to play.
"I am running out of ways to describe this (season). It was disappointing, obviously. Our guys played well enough to give themselves a chance to win," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "The guys played well, and the guys played hard. I feel bad for those guys in that (locker room)."
Cutler was picked off at the Carolina 3 on the Bears' first touch, but Chicago was able to force a Panthers punt to give them excellent field position.
Forte picked up 16 yards on the first play of the drive and Cutler found Marshall for an 18-yard reception to put the ball on the Panthers' 15. Two plays later Forte busted through the line and scampered for a 13-yard touchdown.
The Panthers answered back with a 34-yard Medlock field goal to cap a 5-play, 64-yard trek.
Earlier, Newton hit Brandon LaFell in stride with a pass over the middle resulting in a 62-yard catch-and-run, and after Greg Olsen was stopped short of the first down marker on 3rd-and-15, Carolina settled for the field goal.
Charles Johnson then forced a Cutler fumble on the ensuing possession and the Panthers turned it into a touchdown three plays later to take a 10-7 lead.
On 3rd-and-3 from the Chicago 9, Newton took the snap and broke for the end zone. Newton stretched out at the goal line, but the ball was knocked loose. Panthers wide receiver Louis Murphy, however, corralled the loose ball in the end zone for the score.
After forcing a Bears' three-and-out, the Panthers drove 58 yards on 17 plays before settling for a 31-yard Medlock field goal and Carolina took a 13-7 spread into the break.
Medlock added a pair of third quarter field goals, from 22 and 43 yards, respectively, to give Carolina a 19-7 advantage.
Gould missed a 33-yard field goal attempt in the early parts of the fourth quarter, but the Bears were able to force a three-and-out before Cutler orchestrated a 7-play, 38-yard touchdown drive to pull the Bears within 19-14.
On 2nd-and-8 Cutler connected with Kellen Davis in the back of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown.
Following a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, Newton dropped back and threw the crucial interception to Jennings. Newton was hit as he released the ball and Jennings snatched it of the air before taking it to the end zone untouched.
"We were down and we knew we had to score on defense," Jennings said. "Our captains rallied up the troops. We knew that if we got our hands on the ball we had to score. That's been our mentality all season. I was able to be in the right position and make a play."
The Bears, attempting to take a three-point lead, went for the two-point conversion. Cutler's pass intended for Marshall was intercepted however, giving the Panthers an opportunity to take the lead with a field goal.
The Bears six-game winning streak is the longest since a five-game streak last season ... Chicago has posted five consecutive wins in each of the last three seasons ... Davis' touchdown reception was his only catch in the game ... The Panthers have gone 1-6 over their first seven games in two of the past three seasons.