Seldom-used safety DeAndre Houston-Carson delivered a game-saving play for the second straight week Sunday, intercepting a late Teddy Bridgewater pass to preserve an exciting 23-16 win over the Panthers in Carolina.
The Bears led 20-6 entering the fourth quarter, fueled by a defense that had not allowed a touchdown, twice forcing the Panthers to settle for field goals in the red zone. But Carolina closed the gap to 20-13 on Mike Davis' 1-yard TD run with 13:11 left and-after a Cairo Santos field goal-to 23-16 on Joey Slye's 48-yard field goal with 7:46 to play.
The Panthers started their final possession of the game at their own 20 with 1:32 remaining. On the first play, Houston-Carson registered his first NFL interception on Bridgewater's pass over the middle intended for D.J. Moore, sealing the win with 1:28 to go.
Kmet hauls in first career TD catch Jackson pops Davis, forces fumble Houston-Carson seals the victory with interception
In the Bears' previous game Oct. 8 against the Buccaneers, Houston-Carson broke up a Tom Brady pass on fourth-and-six from the Tampa Bay 41 with :33 left to preserve a 20-19 victory at Soldier Field.
With Sunday's win, the Bears improved to 5-1, their best start since they were also 5-1 in 2012.
The defense generated takeaways on the Panthers' opening drives of both halves deep in Carolina territory. The unit also registered four sacks, allowed just one TD on three red-zone possessions and limited Carolina to a 23 percent success rate on third downs (3 of 13).
The Bears offense was limited to 261 total yards but converted 7-of-14 third-down plays (50 percent) to sustain drives. Nick Foles completed 23 of 39 passes for 198 yards with one TD, one interception and a 70.2 passer rating. The ground game was limited to 63 yards on 25 carries, with David Montgomery gaining 58 yards on 19 attempts.
Santos made all three field goals he attempted, including a career-long 55-yarder with :02 left in the first half that gave the Bears a 13-6 lead.
On the game's third play from scrimmage, Tashaun Gipson intercepted a Bridgewater pass that was broken up by Jaylon Johnson and returned it nine yards to the Carolina 7.
The Bears capitalized on the turnover, taking a 7-0 lead on Foles' 9-yard touchdown pass to rookie Cole Kmet on third-and-goal. It was the second NFL reception and first career TD catch for the second-round pick from Notre Dame.
The Panthers cut the deficit to 7-3 on Slye's 21-yard field goal midway through the first quarter. The Bears forced Carolina to settle for the field goal after Bridgewater's three-yard scramble on third-and-three resulted in first-and-goal at the 7.
The Bears later increased their lead to 10-3 on Santos' 31-yard field goal with 8:09 left in the second quarter. The kick capped an 11-play, 58-yard drive that was highlighted by Foles' completions of 12 yards to Montgomery and 11 yards to Kmet.
At one point in the first half, Foles had connected on 11 of 12 passes for 85 yards.
The Panthers crept to within 10-6 on Slye's 20-yard field goal with 2:00 left in the half. On fourth-and-three from the 6, Bridgewater drew Akiem Hicks offside, resulting in first-and-goal at the 3. The Bears then held the Panthers out of the end zone on three plays to maintain the lead.
The defense generated its second takeaway of the game when Eddie Jackson stripped Davis and Hicks returned the fumble four yards to the Panthers' 22. But on the next play, Foles' pop-fly pass intended for Demetrius Harris was intercepted easily by safety Jeremy Chinn at the Carolina 9.
On the next play, Fuller broke up a pass intended for Robby Anderson that ricocheted to Jackson, who returned it 17 yards for an apparent touchdown. But Fuller was penalized for pass interference, nullifying the play. It was Jackson's second pick-six erased by a penalty this season.
The Bears extended their lead to 20-6 as Foles capped a 10-play, 56-yard drive with a 1-yard TD sneak on third-and-goal with 1:44 left in the third quarter. Foles completed 4 of 4 passes for 34 yards on the drive. It was the first points the Bears have scored in the third quarter this season.
After Davis' TD made it 20-13, the Bears regained a two-score lead at 23-13 on Santos' 31-yard field goal with 9:19 remaining in the game. The key play on the drive was Foles' 23-yard pass to Allen Robinson, coupled with a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty.
Slye's 48-yard field goal closed the gap to 23-16, but the Panthers could get no closer as the Bears snapped Carolina's three-game winning streak.
Road warriors: The Bears have now won their first three road games in a season for the first time since 2006 when they were victorious in their first five away contests. They won their first two road games this season in remarkably similar and dramatic fashion, erasing 17- and 16-point deficits entering the fourth quarter, respectively, to stun the Lions 27-23 on Mitchell Trubisky's three touchdown passes and the Falcons 30-26 on Foles' three TD throws.
Counting last year's season-ending win in Minnesota, the Bears have won four straight road games for the second time under coach Matt Nagy, having done so bridging the 2018 and '19 seasons.
Top of the class: With Sunday's victory, Nagy improved his regular-season record to 25-13 in three years as Bears coach. It's the best mark after 38 games by any Bears coach since George Halas retired in 1968. Second to Nagy is Lovie Smith (22-16), followed by a three-tie at 20-18 involving Neill Armstrong, Mike Ditka and Dave Wannstedt.
Keeping it close: For the first time since 1999, each of the Bears' first six games of the season have been decided by one score. Prior to Sunday's 23-16 win, the Bears had beaten the Lions 27-23, Giants 17-13 and Falcons 30-26, lost to the Colts 19-11 and defeated the Buccaneers 20-19.