Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Matt Forte ran for a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter, as the Chicago Bears overcame a poor performance from veteran quarterback Todd Collins to beat the Carolina Panthers, 23-6, at Bank of America Stadium.
Forte carried the ball 22 times for a career-high 166 yards for the Bears (4-1), who bounced back from an ugly 17-3 loss to the Giants last Sunday. Jay Cutler was sacked nine times in that game and left with a concussion.
With Cutler recovering, Collins got his first start since 2007 when he was a member of the Redskins. Things did not go as planned for Collins, who completed just 6-of-16 passes for 32 yards and four interceptions. The 38- year-old was pulled at the end of the third quarter with a 6.2 passer rating.
On the defensive side of the ball for Chicago, five-time Pro Bowl selection Julius Peppers made his return to Carolina. The star defensive end left the Panthers in the offseason following an eight-year stint with the club.
Rookie Jimmy Clausen connected on 9-of-22 passes for 61 yards and one interception for Carolina (0-5), which is off to its worst start since opening the 1998 season 0-7.
Carolina, which has scored just five touchdowns this year, had only 147 total yards of offense. The horrific start leaves head coach John Fox on the hot seat.
Bears safety Danieal Manning got an action-packed first quarter started with a 62-yard return on the opening kickoff. On the fourth play, Forte sprinted to the left sideline and made his way into the end zone for an 18-yard score.
The Panthers scored their only points of the frame on the ensuing possession. John Kasay capped a nine-play, 55-yard drive with a 24-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
Another good return from Manning combined with Forte's 68-yard touchdown run immediately extended Chicago's lead to 14-3 with 7:35 remaining.
Peppers came back to haunt his old team on Carolina's ensuing possession. Clausen's pass was batted in the air by Peppers, who caught the football on his knees.
The Bears capitalized with a 28-yard Robbie Gould field goal to take a 17-3 lead with 4:37 to go in the first quarter.
Chicago drove the ball to the Panthers one-yard line on its next possession. It seemed like the Bears were ready to put the game away when Collins was picked off by defensive tackle Ed Johnson.
A scoreless second quarter featured a pair of Collins interceptions.
Carolina was faced with a 4th-and-1 from the Bears 28 with about 7 1/2 minutes to play in the third. The Panthers lined up to go for it, but a false start penalty moved the ball back five yards. That resulted in Kasay missing a 51- yard field goal.
Collins was intercepted for a fourth time on Chicago's next possession. Carolina was able to turn this turnover into a 53-yard Kasay field goal to cut the gap to 17-6 with 2:15 left in the third.
The Bears pulled Collins from the game in favor of Caleb Hanie, who was signed by Chicago as an undrafted free agent in 2008. Hanie, though, had the same luck under center, as the Bears finished the third quarter without a first down.
Chicago's initial first down of the second half came with under 12 minutes to play in the fourth. The Bears got to the Panthers 29, but a sack and false start penalty set up a 3rd-and-20 from the 41. Hanie's incomplete pass led to a punt.
Gould made a pair of field goals in the final 3:36 to account for the final margin.
The Bears lead the all-time regular season series with the Panthers, 3-2...Coming into the game, Chicago had zero rushing touchdowns this season...Carolina was without All-Pro wideout Steve Smith (ankle)...Hanie completed 2-of-3 passes for 19 yards...Matt Moore replaced Clausen in the fourth quarter and connected on 5-of-10 passes for 35 yards and two interceptions...The Panthers had 62 yards passing, compared to 29 for the Bears.