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Jackson's 2 TDs power Bears over Panthers.

Byline: Bob LeGere rlegere@dailyherald.com

Jacksons 2 TDs power Bears over Panthers

Who needs an offense?

Not the Chicago Bears at least not when they have rookie safety Eddie Jackson on the prowl in the secondary.

The fourth-round draft pick from Alabama became the first defensive player in NFL history with 2 return touchdowns of 75 yards or longer in the same game.

That was more than enough scoring Sunday for the Bears in a 17-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers (4-3) at Soldier Field.

It was a signature game for a suddenly larcenous Bears defense that forced just 3 turnovers in the first five games but has 3 in each of the past two games, both victories.

It also was the first time the Bears defense has not allowed a touchdown in back-to-back games since 2005, and its the first back-to-back victories for the Bears (3-4) since Week 10 of the 2015 season.

They already have matched their victory total from 2016. That fact, when pointed out to coach John Fox, did not impress the Bears boss, who drew laughs with his response.

"I dont know if thats really a benchmark for us, to be honest," Fox said.

The irony of Jacksons historic performance is that it came exactly one year to the day that he suffered a fractured leg, ending his senior season.

"I didnt even know that, to be honest," he said. "Thats crazy. For real? Aww, man, thats crazy. I really didnt know that."

Were it not for that injury, Jackson would not have been available with the 112th overall selection. He moved into the starting lineup on opening day, and hes beginning to look like one of the biggest steals of the draft.

"I think you saw what we bring to the table when he gets the football in his hands," tight end Zach Miller said. "Hes a playmaker, all over the field. (It was) Eddie 14, Carolina 0 at one point. (Heck) of a game by him."

Thanks to Jackson, it hardly mattered that the Bears offense went unnoticed for much of the game.

It controlled the ball for just 21 minutes and 25 seconds and converted 2 of 11 third downs. The offense produced 153 total yards, just 2 more than Jackson got on his pair of returns.

Rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky completed only 4 passes, and the run game averaged just 2.6 yards per attempt.

The Bears didnt need much offense because their defense, despite spending an inordinate amount of time on the field, stopped the Panthers every time it mattered.

Midway through the third quarter, on fourth-and-2, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was stymied at the Bears 24, a yard short. Midway through the fourth quarter, linebacker Danny Trevathans first career interception thwarted another Panthers drive.

For the fifth straight game, the Bears defense permitted an opponent 300 yards or fewer, limiting the Panthers to 293, even after they had the ball for 38:35.

The Bears sacked Newton five times, and although the visitors drove inside the Bears 40 six times, they managed just 3 points.

On the game-opening drive, Carolina reached the Bears 24, but wide receiver Curtis Samuel mishandled a pitch from Newton, and Jackson scooped it up and scooted 75 yards for his first touchdown. It was the longest fumble return for a touchdown by a rookie in Bears history.

Then, early in the second quarter, Jackson outdid himself. He went 76 yards with an interception of a Newton pass intended for Kelvin Benjamin that was deflected by cornerback Prince Amukamara.

"Prince made a great play," Jackson said. "I owe it all to him, and I was just able to make something happen."

Newton had the last, best chance to keep Jackson out of the end zone, but the rookie couldnt let his first NFL interception end that way.

"Hes the quarterback," Jackson said. "Its like if youre a punt-return guy, they always say, Dont get tackled by the punter. When youre a DB and you make an interception, dont get tackled by the quarterback."

* Follow Bobs Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Oct 23, 2017
Words:686
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