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:
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.
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.
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.
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.