Every week, NFL teams' toughness is examined. Even though the Bears looked like one of the best teams in the league and were playing struggling Carolina on Sunday, question marks remain. How would the Bears play after a short week? Were Jay Cutler's sore ribs feeling OK? Could Cam Newton recover from general ineptitude?
As it turns out, a Robbie Gould field goal as time expired was enough to boost the NFC North-leading Bears to 6-1.
"To get out with a 'W,' we're happy, but anytime you win there's things to improve on, just like a loss, so we've got to keep getting better," said Cutler, who was booed several times by the Soldier Field crowd. "I'd boo us too. ... It was a boo-worthy performance. It was pathetic what we put out there offensively."
You can't argue with the result, however. Here's how six difference makers fared on our toughness scale in Sunday's game.
Tribune contributed to this report.
The Panthers' stud receiver burned the Bears for 118 yards on seven catches, several of them acrobatic and a few with Bears cornerback Tim Jennings attached to his jersey. He wasn't afraid to trash-talk either, getting in Chris Conte's face as well as Brian Urlacher's. That said, he dropped what would have been a touchdown pass with 2:38 left that would have put the game away. D'oh.
Toughness score: 6 out of 10
The Bears QB looked doomed from the start Sunday. Speculation was rampant on social media that he cussed out his own fans as he walked into the locker room at halftime. He took hit after hit, lost two fumbles and threw an interception—two if you count the one on the failed 2-point conversion. Yet he also led the Bears on two fourth-quarter scoring drives, including the game-winner. Even if Cutler's ribs and ego are aching, the rest of him is just fine.
Toughness score: 8 out of 10
Panthers special teams
Throughout the game, the Panthers refused to send it deep on kickoffs. What, were they that scared of Devin Hester, who has yet to return a kick for a touchdown this season? And what happened on that pathetic 6-yard punt? About the "toughest" thing you can say about this unit is the kicker nailed all five of his field goals, including a 45-yarder that put Carolina ahead with 2:32 remaining. Which isn't saying much.
Tougness score: 3 out of 10
All game the announcers talked about how Lovie Smith preferred that Jennings cover the Panthers' Steve Smith. The decision looked iffy at times but eventually paid off. In addition to a diving interception toward the end of the first half, Jennings picked off a pass and glided into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter to give the Bears the lead. And even though the Soldier Field turf gets an assist on the play—Steve Smith slipped—Jennings had to do the rest.
Toughness score: 8 out of 10
This didn't look like a team that entered Sunday giving up 245.8 passing yards per game. Carolina sacked Jay Cutler six times and frustrated the Bears offense to the point where the Soldier Field crowd booed the home team more than once. All told, the Panthers surrendered just 210 yards of offense Sunday. Which would be outstanding, except for the fact they couldn't shut down the Bears on the final drive.
Toughness score: 7 out of 10
Even though he didn't get in the end zone, the wide receiver was clutch all afternoon. Marshall caught four passes on the drive that led to the winning field goal and delivered several key blocks that resulted in Bears first downs earlier in the game. He also limped off the field in the third quarter, only to return shortly thereafter, when his team needed him most.
Toughness score: 9 out of 10
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