With Elliott Fry and Eddy Pineiro battling for the Bears kicking job, the best kicking effort in Thursday’s preseason opener came instead from Carolina Panthers rookie Joey Slye, who made field goals of 42, 55 and 29 yards and the Panthers had a 7-yard touchdown catch and 11-yard TD run from rookie Elijah Holyfield in a 23-13 victory over the Bears.The Panthers already have a standout kicker in Graham Gano, and it’s possible Slye put himself on the radar of the Bears as well as other teams seeking a kicker by hitting a second-quarter kick of 55 yards for a 6-0 lead.
”He handled it really well,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. ”We had an opportunity for him to kick a 55-yarder. During practice, he hit a 60-something yarder. So I thought this was well within his range and it was kind of fun to watch him kick it.”
”When your job is on the line, every kick is pressure,” Fry said.
Rivera called a timeout to freeze Fry just before the kick. The Eagles had done the same to Parkey. ”You know what is funny, I did that to help the Bears because they are in a kicking contest,” Rivera said.
The former Virginia Tech player made a 29-yarder in the third quarter to expand Carolina’s lead to 16-10. Slye’s 42-yarder came on Carolina’s second possession to open the scoring.While the Bears look for a kicker, the Panthers are trying to determine who will back up quarterback Cam Newton.Both Carolina quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Will Grier enjoyed solid efforts, with Newton sitting out to rest his shoulder after offseason surgery.Allen started and completed 7 of 11 for 76 yards, while Grier completed 9 of 16 for 77 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Grier’s 7-yard TD pass to Holyfield put the Panthers ahead 13-10 in the third quarter, and was set up by a 57-yard punt return from Terry Godwin. Holyfield added his 11-yard run, cutting to the left sideline in the final two minutes.Bears rookie running back David Montgomery made his debut and broke off left tackle for a 7-yard TD in the second quarter, and Fry’s point-after kick put the Bears up 7-6. Montgomery finished with 16 yards on three rushes and caught three passes for 30 yards.Fry later had the Soldier Field fans roaring with a 43-yard field goal to close the first half, the same distance and at the same post Cody Parkey struck on his double-doink to end the Bears’ 16-15 playoff loss last season to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Pineiro wasn’t as fortunate, missing wide left on a 48-yard attempt in the first half. Pineiro did make a 23-yard chip shot to get the Bears within 16-13 in the fourth quarter.
”This was the big stage tonight for them,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said of his kickers. ”This was as big as we can get it before the season starts.”
Backup quarterback Chase Daniel completed 11 of 13 for 120 yards and a TD while Tyler Bray was 8 for 17 for 85 yards for the Bears. Rookie tight end Ian Bunting led the Bears with 77 yards on three receptions.Holyfield, the son of former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, picked himself up and kept on going in the fashion of his famous father.Elijah Holyfield lost a fumble in the second quarter of his first NFL game. The former Georgia back was hit by Josh Woods, coughed it up as he went to the ground and James Vaughters recovered to set the Bears up for their drive to the go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter.Holyfield found things moving a bit quicker than at Georgia.
”It is fast, very fast,” he said. ”You’ve only got 1 second to make a decision, so it was cool.”
Nagy downplayed the chances of starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky playing in the preseason opener earlier in the week, but Trubisky did start. He played one series, didn’t throw a pass, and the Bears were off the field in three plays.
”Even though it was just a couple handoffs, I feel just that part is good for him,” Nagy said.
The Panthers’ defense kept the Bears in check much of the game, with Marquis Haynes and Brian Burns each getting two sacks.
Carolina Tight end Ian Thomas suffered a rib injury and left the game in the second quarter. He did not return. … Cornerback Lorenzo Doss left in the third quarter with a rib injury and did not return. … Linebacker Luke Kuechly did not play after an injury scare earlier in the week. Kuechly absorbed a blow in practice but did not go into the league’s concussion protocol…..The Bears did not have an injury in the game, but cornerback Kevin Toliver II was a scratch at game time due to illness…..The Bears play the New York Giants on Aug. 16.