No 'deserves' in Bears reaching 6-1 with fifth straight win

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No 'deserves' in Bears reaching 6-1 with fifth straight win

Cornerback Tim Jennings preferred to look at the result rather than steps in the process.
 
This was an ugly one, said Jennings, whose 25-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Bears a lead in the fourth quarter. Offense didnt play well. Defense didnt play well. Special teams didnt get any big plays.
 
But we just had to keep fighting.
 
In the last half of the last quarter, the offense, defense and special teams all produced both big plays and points.
 
So whether the Bears won a 23-22 victory over the Carolina Panthers on a last-second field goal of 41 yards by Robbie Gould or the Panthers blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead really isnt important at all.
 
Beauty, or lack of, is in the minds of the critics, not in the NFL standings, which have the 6-1 Bears with the second-best record in the NFL and still two games ahead of the 5-3 Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North.
 
There is no such thing as an ugly win, coach Lovie Smith said. To me the team that deserves the win always ends up on top at the end.
 
Indeed, deserves has no relevance in sports, certainly not after the Bears trailed the ill-starred 1-6 Panthers by a count of 19-7 as late as the 7-minute mark of the fourth quarter. The Bears scored 13 points in the span of 8 seconds to deserve a fifth straight win for the third season in a row.
 
All phases in 7 minutes
 

Smith consistently alludes to the importance of all phases of the team offense, defense, special teams plus fan support as the fourth. All four figured prominently in one of the epic turnarounds in recent Bears history:
 
Offense
 
The victory needed quarterback Jay Cutler completing 12 of 14 passes in the fourth quarter and accomplishing his first come-from-behind win since rallying the Bears against the Philadelphia Eagles last Nov. 7.
 
The offense turned a shanked six-yard Carolina punt into a 12-yard touchdown pass from Cutler to tight end Kellen Davis with 6 minutes, 52 seconds to play.
 
After the Panthers had gone back ahead on a Justin Medlock field goal of 45 yards, Cutler picked apart a suddenly overmatched Carolina defense by completing six of seven passes to set up Goulds winning kick.
 
They were playing one coverage, said Cutler, who finished with 19-of-28 passing for 186 yards, a touchdown, an interception and passer rating of 83.3. He was sacked six times in the first half, then never again.
 
We just kept hitting them and hitting them and hitting them.
 
Defense
 
It needed Jennings eight seconds and one snap later intercepting a pass intended for wide receiver Steve Smith, who had slipped on the play. Jennings returned the ball 25 yards for an NFL-record sixth defensive touchdown on the year.
 
The play was particularly savored because it came at the expense of Smith, who hurt the Bears with seven catches and 118 receiving yards and dismissed Bears defensive backs as not his equal in the aftermath.
 
They didnt especially care.
 
Great play, said cornerback Charles Tillman. You never know whats going to happen so thats why you have to keep playing. Coach Smith is always talking about it. I think we learned a lot about our team tonight.
 
Special teams
 
It needed special teams and Gould shaking off an earlier miss from 32 yards and driving home his 13th field goal of the season as time expired.
 
Carolina collapse
 
The defeat carried a special sting. Coach Ron Rivera fell to 0-2 against former boss Lovie Smith, but more excruciatingly, five of the Panthers six losses have been by six or fewer points. The last four have been by a total of 12 points and were leaving Rivera without answers, or solutions.
 
Yeah, I am, truly, Rivera said. Im running out of ways to describe this.
 
This was anything but a meltdown by quarterback Cam Newton or anyone else. Newton completed 20 of 39 passes for 314 yards but saved his worst throw to a slipping Smith - until it mattered most.
 
I kind of felt him slipping, Newton said. I just wanted to give Steve and chance. You cant do that. You need to protect the ball better than that.
 
If you dont, you dont deserve to win. Or something like that.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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