The Panthers' defense turned back the clock all the way to 2013 in the second half Sunday, keying a come-from-behind 31-24 victory over Chicago.
The Panthers were down 21-7 deep in the second quarter, and things were looking grim. But Carolina outscored Chicago 24-3 the rest of the way, in large part because its defense suddenly remembered how to play football.
Carolina forced takeaways on each of Chicago's final three possessions of the fourth quarter -- an interception by Thomas DeCoud and two fumbles ripped from Matt Forte and Jay Cutler. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly had a monstrous game and the Panther pass rush returned, with four sacks. Chicago quarterback Cutler ultimately lost his mojo completely, taking two sacks and losing a fumble on the Bears' final possession when Chicago was trying to score a game-tying TD.
Carolina returns to the top of the NFC South at 3-2, since Atlanta (2-3) lost to the New York Giants. Panther tight end Greg Olsen scored two touchdowns for Carolina, including the game-winner on a six-yard dart rom Cam Newton. The Panthers outscored Chicago 10-0 in the fourth quarter for the win, which was Ron Rivera's first as a head coach over the team where he used to both play and later served as defensive coordinator.