Bears 13, Panthers 3
-- Nathan Vasher didn't set a record this time -- he set the tone.
One week after returning a missed field goal a record 108 yards, Vasher intercepted two passes, and the North-leading Bears stamped themselves as a contender in the NFC on Sunday with a 13-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers, Chicago's sixth straight win.
"I'm playing as well as anybody," Vasher said. "Our defense is playing as good as -- if not better -- than anybody."
The NFC South-leading Panthers (7-3) saw their six-game win streak end. After scoring at least 20 points in every game, they managed 238 yards against the NFL's No. 1 defense, and Jake Delhomme was sacked eight times.
Vasher's first interception led to a three-yard touchdown reception for former Panther Muhsin Muhammad, and the second resulted in a 33-yard field goal by Robbie Gould in the first quarter. The second-year pro has six interceptions.
"I'm having the right progressions and the right reads," Vasher said. "It just looks easy, I guess. Football is one of those things either you can or you can't. I obviously can."
Adewale Ogunleye tied a career high with three sacks, and Alex Brown added two and forced two fumbles for the Bears (7-3).
Muhammad had six receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown against his former team but dropped several passes. Thomas Jones ran for 87 yards on 25 attempts after missing last week's 17-9 victory over San Francisco with sore ribs. Kyle Orton was 15 of 26 for 136 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Fred Miller started at right tackle for the Bears after missing last week's game with a broken jaw -- the result of a punch to the face from center Olin Kreutz during an altercation at an FBI shooting range in the Chicago area on Nov. 7. The FBI launched an internal investigation into the incident.
"We've already put it behind us, you know," said Miller, whose jaw was starting to swell. "You guys still want to write about it and care about it. We had to go out there and win a ball game, no matter what."
Kreutz said he and Miller are embarrassed and that there's "not a right or wrong guy in that whole situation. We're just both idiots."
Carolina's Steve Smith, the NFL's leader with 937 receiving yards entering the game, caught 14 passes for 169 yards. But others struggled: Delhomme was 22 of 38 for 235 yards and two interceptions, and the Panthers managed only 55 yards rushing.
"Certainly they are good; there's no doubt," Delhomme said. "We put ourselves in a hole early. I had a couple picks early on, we went down 10-0. We just never got anything going."
None of the Bears' previous five wins were against teams with winning records, and the only blowout was a 28-3 victory over Minnesota on Oct. 16.