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Chicago Bears edge past Carolina Panthers and better their odds at top pick at next year’s NFL Draft

By Ben Morse, CNN

(CNN) — The Chicago Bears edged past the Carolina Panthers in a low-scoring affair on Thursday, a win which boosts their chances at the top pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

Bears running back D’Onta Foreman scored the only offensive touchdown of the evening on a rush and Panthers kicker Eddy Pineiro missed what would have been a game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter as Chicago won 16-13.

After the Bears traded the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s NFL Draft to the Panthers – a selection that proved to be quarterback Bryce Young – in exchange for a bounty of picks, including Carolina’s 2024 first round pick, the Panthers’ woeful start to the season and their league-worst record of 1-8 means Chicago has an excellent chance at the No. 1 pick in the 2024 Draft.

There is huge excitement around next year’s draft, with two highly-rated quarterbacks in the form of USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye leading a talented class.

The Bears were without starting quarterback Justin Fields for Thursday’s game through injury, with undrafted rookie Tyson Bagent once again starting in his place.

Although he came into the league with little fanfare, Bagent has shown why he had so much success at Shepard University, limiting mistakes to allow his team the best chance at victory.

Foreman’s touchdown was the team’s only taste of the endzone on the night, while the Bears defense – with the newly-acquired Montez Sweat amongst its ranks – did enough to slow the Panthers down. In his first game since being traded from the Washington Commanders, Sweat had a team-high eight pressures in the game.

Bagent now has two wins in his four NFL starts, double the amount of victories that Young – the player the Panthers traded up to acquire – has in his short time in the NFL.

Thursday’s game was another tough outing for the Panthers QB, who finished with 21-of-38 passing for 185 yards and no touchdowns. Most indicative of the performance though, when Carolina needed a score at the end of the game, head coach Frank Reich decided to go for a 59-yard field goal rather than try and convert a fourth-and-10 to extend the drive.

The long field goal was eventually missed by Pineiro and Carolina’s underwhelming era with Young at the helm continued.

The only real positive from the game was the performance of Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who scored Carolina’s only touchdown of the game, running back a punt return 79 yards to the house against his former team.

It was a bittersweet outing for Bears hero Foreman, who spent last season with the Panthers and finished with 914 rushing yards and five touchdowns – both career-high tallies – after inheriting the starting position following the trade of former Carolina star RB Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers.

He impressed playing against many of his former teammates, scoring what turned out to be the decisive score of the game in the third quarter with a four-yard touchdown run.

“[The emotions were] kind of high, really, all day it was high, but when the game came, I just had to calm down and understand that it’s just another game, and just go out there and play my game. Don’t try to do too much, just stay in the moment, and I feel like I did that,” Foreman told reporters after the game.

The victory moves to Chicago to 3-7 on the season, two games clear from Carolina’s league-worst record.

“It means a lot to get the victory, and that has nothing to do with the team we played,” Foreman said. “It was just us in this locker room, and everything we’ve been going through all year and really needing this win to try and get these guys rallied back up.

“And I really think that if we can just stay together and the defense plays like they did tonight, we’re going to get more wins for sure.”

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