AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa AnitaThe answer was an emphatic no. The Bears won eight consecutive after that, 10 of their last 12, and captured the NFC North. Along the way, they dominated the Panthers 13-3 at Soldier Field and sacked Jake Delhomme eight times. Now, they meet again. The Bears are in the playoffs for the first time in four years and are looking for their first playoff victory since beating Minnesota in the first round after the 1994 season. After going 13-3 and earning a bye in 2001, they lost by 14 to Philadelphia. The Panthers became the first road team since 1980 to score a playoff shutout when they beat the New York Giants 23-0 in the opening round last week. The defense forced five turnovers and the offense ran over a Giants team hurt by injuries to its linebacking corps. DeShaun Foster rushed for 151 yards after picking up 165 against Atlanta the previous week. After a first-round playoff bye, after a season proving the doubters wrong, the Bears host the Carolina Panthers today. The winner advances to the NFC championship game at Seattle. It all seemed unlikely, especially after a loss to Cleveland that dropped Chicago to 1-3 and left linebacker Lance Briggs wondering: “Are we that bad?” None of this seemed to awe Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who cut off a question about the Panthers’ running game this week by saying, “We’re not the Giants.” Nor are they the Falcons, for that matter. The Bears owned the NFL’s top-ranked defense for seven weeks before ending the regular season with a 34-10 loss at Minnesota that dropped that unit to second behind Tampa Bay. They allowed a league-low 12.6 points per game. And the last time the Bears met Carolina, they branded themselves an NFC contender with a victory that was as lopsided as a 10-point decision can be. Although Steve Smith finished with 169 yards receiving, Carolina’s running game was nonexistent. The Panthers managed 55 yards rushing. But they have a different look now, more speed and finesse with Foster carrying the ball and Stephen Davis on injured reserve. Foster, who started the last four regular-season games and the playoff opener, had three mediocre outings before breaking out against Atlanta. “They run a lot of tosses with him to use his speed,” Bears defensive end Alex Brown said. “That actually helps their different blocking schemes; it’s not all power. They can run some finesse-type plays. The guy runs hard, he breaks tackles. He did last game against the Giants.” The last time Delhomme faced the Bears, he spent much of the game running from pressure. When he wasn’t on the ground, he was slinging sidearm passes and throwing off his back foot. Nathan Vasher’s two first-quarter interceptions set up a touchdown and field goal, and the Bears never looked back. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! LAKE FOREST, Ill. – All along, the Chicago Bears claimed they would reach this point. They said they would make the playoffs, stuck together through a tough start and proved their training camp predictions were more than just hollow chatter. And here they are.